Sandy stole the spotlight, but Broadway to reopen today

Times Square, February 2012.
Flickr user Shavar Ross

There are some fierce divas on Broadway. But even they couldn’t stand up to the prima donna that took center stage for the past three days in New York City: Mother Nature.

Yesterday, Broadway League officially announced that most of its productions will resume today after what’s technically been the longest consecutive theater closure in the city’s history. But clocking in at an estimated three days Sunday, Monday and Tuesday  this deterrent may arguably be tied with the industry’s post-9/11 recovery speed. The 2001 terrorist attacks saw theaters shutter their doors until Sept. 13 cancelling just two nights and one matinee. This week, theaters on the Great White Way closed Sunday, Money and Tuesday nights. However, Mondays are traditionally dark on Broadway and most shows ran their matinees as scheduled Sunday so in many cases, the number of performances that were shut down this week due to a freak superstorm are equal to those lost after the collapse of the twin towers.

The total performances lost varies by show. While some will be able to get on their feet in time for their slated matinees this afternoon, others will open again at night. How will box offices fare? On Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001, houses were reportedly at between 60 and 70 percent capacity. Tomorrow’s audience sizes will likely largely rest on the reliability of the MTA. In the long-term, Broadway’s recovery may depend on when tourists and out-of-towners can resume their travel plans to NYC.

Ticket-holders may seek refunds for canceled performances; of course, theatergoers are encouraged to redeem their seats at a later date instead. NYC’s paramount industry and the talent behind it can use all the income, support and applause it can get in the wake of Sandy.

What about downtown and outer borough theater?

While the marquees surrounding Times Square were lighting up as soon as possible following 9/11 thanks to collective efforts from throughout the city, smaller theater venues and companies off-Broadway were left to slowly crawl their way back to functional the ones that made it back, that is.

Yesterday, the main concern for most off- and off-off-Broadway spaces was a lack of power; companies weren’t reporting damage to actual theater spaces. For example, Horse Trade Theater Company has several spaces on the Lower East Side including The Kraine, Red Room and the high-risk basement venue at UNDER St. Marks. Erez Ziv, co-founder and managing director, said the group is prioritizing ways to reschedule its shows, such as moving shows to other venues where there’s electricity or double-booking shows for this weekend’s First Annual Gothic Storytelling Festival to accommodate them all at times when the power has been restored.

One notable exception is Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, which reported heavy flooding and damage on its Facebook page along with an uplifting message: “BUT, this is Brooklyn, and we are New Yorkers, so we’re going to fight back and rebuild. With the help of you: our audience and our community we can do this.” The group stated intentions to reopen by Friday and is welcoming area volunteers to stop by anytime today to lend a hand.

Despite tremendous loss in revenue across the board, and substantially less help coming their way than their Midtown counterparts, companies located downtown and in the outer boroughs are reporting positivism.

One anecdote comes from Brooklyn’s Magic Futurebox, which was slated to tech and open “Bloody Lullabies for Brave Women” this weekend. It’s now likely they will be operating with “an extremely bare-bones production,” according to co-executive artistic director Kevin Laibson, but he added: “This is the double-edged sword of indie theater, though, right? We’re fortunate not to have obligations to the unions, but in return, sometimes we’ve got to paint sets and hang lights ourselves.” Suzan Eraslan, co-executive artistic director and the director of “BLBW,” also showed good humor: “Our upcoming show has a scene in which cookies are handed out to the audience, and at least being stuck home has given me the time to make them from scratch.”

Ziv of Horse Trade summarized the sentiments that are prevalent among the city’s entire theater crowd, regardless of size or locale: “The most important thing is that everyone on staff and in our artistic community is safe and sound.”

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