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New Broadway League Chair Lauren Reid on the work ahead

When Lauren Reid started as chair of the Broadway League in mid-December 2020, she knew she first had to address the elephant in the virtual room — the ongoing closure of theaters on Broadway and across the country.

Lauren Reid took over as chair of Broadway League on Dec. 15, 2020. (Photo: Courtesy of the Broadway League)

When Lauren Reid started as chair of the Broadway League in mid-December 2020, she knew she first had to address the elephant in the virtual room — the ongoing closure of theaters on Broadway and across the country.

Reid, the chief operating officer of the John Gore Organization, took over the three-year position from Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Productions, amid the longest shutdown in Broadway history. While each League chair tries to focus their term on two priorities, Reid acknowledged that many of the League’s near-term efforts will be concentrated on reopening the industry.

“We’ve got to approach our challenge ahead with a lot of hard work, determination and compassion together and recognize that even with the incredible efficacy of the vaccine, we can’t rely on just that to do our work for us,” Reid said.

Reid distilled the League’s reopening efforts into three main areas: health and safety, marketing and government relief — the last of which has involved the passage of the Save Our Stages provision and a New York State tax credit for productions. The three areas are being covered by the League’s 40-plus task forces, which have been in operation since March 2020.

Broadway shows are currently closed through May 30, 2021 and some productions have begun to set dates for fall 2021. Reid said she could not provide a reopening timeline beyond that.

Reid began at the John Gore Organization, which encompasses Broadway Across America, and 47 presenting theaters in North America, in 1992 and became chief operating officer in 2017 — in between Reid served as chief operating officer of live entertainment company BASE Entertainment.

In addition to her role as chair, Reid serves on the League’s membership, finance and biennial planning committees. She previously served as road vice-chair of the Broadway League.

She recently spoke with Broadway News about her objectives for her term, industry relief efforts and expanding diversity within the Broadway League.

Edited excerpts:

Broadway News: In addition to the work to reopen Broadway, what are your priorities for your term?

Lauren Reid: The first is equity, diversity and inclusion. That idea isn’t new to our community, but clearly what our nation is facing around those issues now has just laid bare how urgent that work is. So, we want to be more aggressive about delivering ethical opportunities for a more diverse workforce both on and off stage, and lend a hand wherever we can and to be more purposeful about reaching and providing access to and for more diverse audiences

Even recently, within these last 45 days, we have offered all League members unconscious bias training, and had an incredible keynote address by Verna Meyers [Netflix’s vice president of inclusion strategy]. The next step is for us to offer an anti-racism training to our group. We have also already approved the hiring and are on a search for an executive search for a director of equity, diversity and inclusion for the Broadway League.

Secondly, the job is really to serve everybody in the League, and I think the way to do that especially during this time is through great communication. These times call for kind of open, direct and even constant interaction. And so, my commitment I made when I took this on was to make sure that the [League] members have access to a lot of the vital information and to know that their voices are being heard.

BN: In 2020, the League made changes to its bylaws and added two members of color to the board. The League has since stated a goal of adding up to nine more board members of color over the next few years. Can you talk more about those changes?

Reid: We increased the size of the board. There’s a technicality to allow for a small number of associate members to serve on a Board of Governors, in addition to full members. So that will allow for us to extend that value more quickly. We also added language that supports representation, and more language to support a full and diverse community.

That, I’m proud to say, was a decision made in unanimous agreement of everybody at one of our meetings. It emphasizes that [Equity, Diversity and Inclusion] is a core value of the League.

BN: What does the League’s plan to bring back Broadway entail?

Reid: On the health and safety side, we are working closely, with government officials, medical experts that we’ve hired, building engineers, professional consultants to make sure that the systems that we put in place are responsible and to make sure that our crews are safe, our employees are safe, our cast and our patrons.

On the marketing front, clearly, we’ve got to design and build an industry-wide campaign that reaches Broadway fans, and maybe identifies less avid fans to create that insatiable desire to come back when it’s time to come back, so that’s what the business development committee is doing.

We’ve gotten some wonderful federal relief thanks to the efforts of a lot of the League members, and we worked together to build larger coalitions, with [the National Independent Venue Association] for instance, which I think has worked very well. And I think we’ll continue that work. We’re overwhelmingly grateful to Governor Cuomo, who recently included us in the New York State budget, and we’re working closely with him to develop that.

Now our focus is really on how do we get all of our employees back to work? We’ve got to support the efforts of extending the subsidies for COBRA and the unemployment extension and make sure that those stay in the package bill that’s in Congress now.

BN: Can you offer more specifics on health and safety measures for reopening?

Reid: I wish that we could flip the switch. But what I said was, we have to work with our local government officials and the health and safety experts to guide us and to let us know when it is time and safe to go back to work. None of us is going to go back in any other way other than responsible way for ourselves and for our audiences. A lot of presenters, producers, theater owners have already looked at the layered approach of these new technologies for ticketing, reviewing air handling, or increased measures of cleanliness and masking.

It’s fluid, and we are being very flexible. But we want to be at the ready and prepared.