Broadway is gearing up for reopening as the targeted return date moves into view.
Following bullish statements from government officials and improving health trends, Broadway leaders are moving forward with a fall timeline for restarting productions. While some plans are already in place, producers still need to complete contract negotiations with theatrical unions and set safety protocols in order to clear the way for Broadway’s return.
As stated by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday, a Broadway reopening this September appears possible due to falling case numbers and an increasing vaccination rate. Given the positive trends, Brian Moreland, producer of the new play “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” said he believes his show’s opening in the fall will hold.
“We are currently on track to open in the fall,” Moreland said. “Closer to the September-October range. We are awaiting some government guidance, but it’s looking really good, so we’re very happy about that.”
Specifics on health and safety protocols for audience members and performers within the theater remain to be seen. As it stands, Moreland said his show is working on plans for paperless ticketing and expects to stagger its curtain time with surrounding Broadway productions. The expectation is that audience members will be required to wear masks.
“Beyond that, we don’t know just yet, only because the science is changing so much and so rapidly,” he said. “We’re still waiting for that guidance, but those are the bare minimums that we know will have to happen.”
Industry leaders have not yet announced what union-mandated safety protocols will need to be implemented for cast and crews to return to work or whether union members will be working under new contract terms. The Broadway League is in the midst of negotiations with the theatrical unions and has presented them with proposals for wage concessions, according to sources familiar with the matter.
This is set against the backdrop of growing calls from industry members for greater workplace protection of members who are Black, Indigenous or people of color, and efforts from producers — including Moreland, whose production has been working with the Shubert Organization on strategies to invite BIPOC communities to Broadway and make them feel welcome — to make the industry more inclusive.
The government is signaling support for a Broadway reopening this fall. On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a goal to “fully reopen” the city on July 1, which includes restaurants, gyms and retail stores, and reiterated a commitment to helping bring back Broadway this September. Broadway will reopen later than other industries due to the time it takes to remount productions, de Blasio said.
The Broadway League said Thursday that de Blasio’s remarks give the League “further optimism” about a reopening starting this September, but a formal announcement has not yet been made. Additional details will be announced in the upcoming weeks, according to the League.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to hold the ultimate authority needed to increase capacity restrictions and reopen Broadway, as well as other businesses. Indoor theaters are currently allowed to operate at 33% capacity, but Broadway leaders have said this is not financially feasible for the industry. In a press conference Thursday, Cuomo did not comment on Broadway, but suggested the city could open up earlier than July 1 with safety precautions in place.
“Diana” is one of the few productions that has announced an on-sale ticket date for a run after the Broadway shutdown, however more shows are expected to announce ticketing dates in the next few weeks.
Moreland said his production, which has reserved an opening night date with the Broadway League, is waiting for capacity requirements to be increased to at least 75%, which would allow the show to be financially viable. The ultimate goal is to reach 100% capacity.