March 12, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic closes, among other things, Broadway and all the entertaining venues’ doors. And show business stops. A lot of artists made a great effort to shift their performances online and it surely represented a way to share the tough moment and a way to be present in the absence of the theaters; a way to say “we’re here and will be there as soon as possible”.
In hard times, human beings are able to come up with ingenuity and a “homeopathic” form of shows has substituted the traditional one, knowing that safety comes before anything else, whether that be business or entertainment. But clearly a screen is not the right place for art, which needs presence.
One year after the forced closure, New York City presents some initiatives with the purpose of giving some vitality back to the only field that (together with tourism) has totally undergone the pandemic effects. While it’s true that restaurants and non essential activities have struggled among the constant lock downs, show business and events in general shut down on March 12, 2020 and never reopened. But with the spring and the fast distribution of vaccines, something is changing. Those who approach this topic talk about “the light at the end of the tunnel”.
Sorry if I don’t use the same expression, but I prefer realism to optimism: the pandemic is still here, cases are still high in numbers and this is still a transmissible and deadly disease therefore, as the whole situation during the last year has depended on responsible or reckless behaviors, in the same way this attempt of reopening is not the actual light at the end of the tunnel but rather a great opportunity that indifference and ignorance can potentially ruin.
Last March 23, Doctor Fauci stated, “If enough people get vaccinated and if we are careful in reopening and resuming activities, based on current projections, I believe we likely could see a return to more fully open movie and Broadway theaters sometime in the fall”. A lot of “ifs” and conditional tense, he doesn’t offer any certainty because he knows everything relies on common sense, therefore before gloating and celebrating, I’d rather watch what the “audience” will make of this great opportunity to get back to some sort of normality.
Under the guidance of governor Cuomo and mayor De Blasio, the NY PopsUp Festival will test, until September 6, Labor Day, the possible reopening of show business in the fall, always with restrictions and in total safety.
Since April 2, and on specific dates, a limited number of theaters on and off Broadway, are opening their doors with a reduced capacity of 33% to people presenting proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. But there’s more. A series of improvised events will take place “by surprise” (thus unannounced) and for free in every possible corner of the city: parks, museums, fire stairs, parking lots. The purpose is to revitalize the show business industry, keeping in mind the still current risk, to take advantage of the city and its outdoor spaces and to give the complex mechanism of art and show production, which counts millions of people, the opportunity to start again by training the muscles after a year of atrophy.
Governor Cuomo said, “We want to be aggressive with reopening the State and getting our economy back on track, and NY PopsUp will be an important bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions. New York has been a leader throughout this entire pandemic, and we will lead once again with bringing back the arts.”
The NY PopsUp Festival takes place in the whole State of New York. For more information www.nypopsup.com
Another initiative is Restart Stages. The Lincoln Center, in collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, sets up 10 outdoor performance and rehearsal spaces to kickstart the performing arts sector. An outdoor area of 14.000 square feet, easy accessibility to people with different levels of mobility, ready to offer all kinds of performances: film projections, readings, ballets, concerts, with collaborations from across all five boroughs. For more information www.lincolncenter.com
Moreover, starting April 26, movie theaters may increase their capacity from 25 to 33%; museums and zoos will go up to 50% and arenas from 10 to 25%.
Despite global warming, Spring still succeeds in its amazing rebirth process: life comes back, flowers bloom, animals end their hibernation and this year even humans awake and come out of their den where they’ve been shut in, hoping to be able restart from where they left off.
The idea that finally even show business, which has been considered the last sector to be able to restart since the beginning of the pandemic, may come back to life really represents a spring and gives the idea that we are really going towards the solution. But being optimistic and positive is useless if we don’t act responsibly: the theater reopening in September is not certain, it will depend on the number of vaccinations and on responsible behavior that, if followed, may allow us to go back to a movie theater, a show, a concert, a jazz session.
“New York Tough” is the state and city slogan since the beginning of the pandemic and numbers are encouraging (26% of NYC is vaccinated and 39% got the first shot): if we do not make mistakes there is a good chance that the vaccine will help us create enough immunity to really pick up from where we left off and maybe in September I’ll be able to see the Black Pumas’ live concert, for which I had a ticket scheduled for May and bought in December!
The more virtuous and vaccinated we’ll be, the sooner and with less damage we’ll get to the notorious light at the end of the tunnel. Enjoy your artistic spring.