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How the regional theater crisis will be felt on Broadway

Producers Sue Frost and Aaron Glick, playwright Douglas Lyons and more predict possible benefits and challenges caused by the ripple from America’s theaters.

(Credit: Manuel Medir/Getty)

Every week a new headline seems to bring the crisis facing regional theaters into sharper focus. Audiences aren’t back and coffers are drained, requiring organizations to reduce staff, curtail programming or shutter altogether. By some estimates, 20 percent fewer productions are programmed across more than 70 top regional theaters next season as compared to the last full season before the pandemic.

New York theater is weathering a similar storm, particularly in the nonprofit sector, and yet this summer several Broadway productions have broken records at the box office, which shows overall signs of a steady recovery. Simultaneously, the effects that the contraction of the regional market will have on Broadway are already becoming clear.

“Because it’s an ecosystem, when you pick away at it everything starts to unravel,” said “Come From Away” producer Sue Frost. The challenges facing regional theaters will directly shape both the development pipeline for new work and the production opportunities for a show after a Main Stem run — with potential upsides and downsides for Broadway’s future. Though insiders agree the full scope of the impact will take several seasons to play out, some trends are already underway.

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