The rumble of a subway train, the rattle of a taxi. The orchestra warming up. The bell ringing to note the imminent end of intermission. The sound of thunderous applause after the 11 o’clock number. The emotional connection to the story portrayed on stage. Those are things audiences miss these days as live theater has pivoted online.
“It’s the buzz when you’re walking down the streets,” said theatergoer Dave Shwide of Long Island, of what excites him before a Broadway show. “It’s like Disney World for adults, [but for Broadway] shows.” Imagine 45th Street, jam-packed before an 8 p.m. curtain, with lines of patrons intertwining from Dear Evan Hansen to Come From Away and Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.
The third-grade Jackson Heights, Queens, schoolteacher misses the theater, but he’s hopeful to be in a seat someday soon. Shwide is one of many fans who lent their voices to a new campaign that centers around the anticipation of Broadway’s return. Says another fan in the campaign, “I want to be wherever a show is opening up when we get back.”
As of March 12, Broadway will have been shut down for an entire year, putting about 100,000 people in the industry out of work. Several shows have already announced they will not be returning, including Frozen, Mean Girls, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. It’s unknown when surviving and new productions will be allowed to resume. Some insiders estimate it will happen this fall, while others suggest even later.
For many, live theater carries the feeling of being a part of an exclusive club, a special shared experience with only those in the room at that exact moment. If something happens on stage at that particular show, only that audience is witness to it. It’s a form of art that brings out raw emotions, leading you everywhere from curious, angry, sad, and happy to carefree and humming along to “Popular” on the way out. Throughout the pandemic, live theater shifted in order to keep it going, and artists used streaming platforms as a new way to reach audiences. Because in many ways, art cannot be appreciated unless there’s an audience to bear witness.
Until live theater resumes, the memories of the shows we’ve seen keep the passion burning. And one day, Broadway will return with new stories to shed a light on. Hadestown was one of the last shows Shwide saw before Broadway shuttered. He and his wife are ready to be transported into another world as soon as the curtain rises. And Shwide knows that whatever show it will be, it’s going to be explosive. “It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting in the back row up on top,” he says.
“You go to baseball games, you’re waiting for that slugger to hit the home run. But when you go to Broadway, it’s guaranteed. You know that home runs come in.”
Last updated and effective as of January 14, 2019
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