The Lullaby of Broadway
I awoke this morning to the news of another extension to the Broadway shutdown. This is now the fourth notification of the community being put on hold. The first was March 12, through April 26; the second was an extension through July 7; the third was another extension through January 3, 2021; and, now another through May of 2021. Each one of these notifications landed like a sucker punch to my gut.
Throughout this process, I have largely held my tongue. Most people are full of opinions and I vacillate between mine making a difference and not. Today I am speaking out, hoping to make a difference, realizing I likely won’t.
These are difficult, scary and complicated times, compounded by a contentious presidential race, compounded by a nation that continues to politicize this virus. Science has told us that everyone wearing masks will significantly slow and nearly eliminate the spread of the virus. Had this been mandated by the federal government months ago, things would look significantly different as they do, say, in Japan. We would already have the same freedoms many people are currently complaining about not having, merely by being asked to wear masks. The push back is nonsensical and mind-boggling. We could go anywhere, dine anywhere, see movies, go to the theater, see live concerts, go to ball games, travel. All of it. We would be there. NOW. But, we’re not, because people are selfish. I’ll leave the rest of my thoughts on this matter here, as I don’t want to get too far off point….
Some of you may have read the statistics, but they bear repeating. According to the Broadway League, the number of jobs that have been impacted is upwards of 90,000; for the 2018-2019 season, Broadway attendance hit a record high of 14,768,254 and a record grossing season of $1,829,312,140, surpassing all NY sports teams combined. The contribution of NYC tourists was estimated by the Broadway League to be 9.6 billion, and overall contributed 11.9 billion to NYC’s economy (including $500 million in taxes).
Now that you have some perspective on the economic impact, let me continue to the heart of the issue.
In 2018, I had the opportunity to step into Broadway – something I had dreamed of doing since I was about 11 years old. I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I spoke with every friend I knew who was working in the community to get a sense of what I was in for and how to prepare. I knew that, despite having already been working as a full-time musician for nearly 20 years, this would be the challenge of a lifetime. And it was. Additionally, it has become the most rewarding and enjoyable work that I have ever done. I am proud beyond words to be a part of this incredible group.
Sure, it is astounding that I get to make music consistently – six days and eight shows a week – and be a part of something so considerable. I love being a team player supporting something that is so much bigger than you. But it is even more significant than that. It is the relationships, the pride, the kindness, the support, the joy, the talent, the humility, the sense of family that we all get to feel while part of a show that is indescribable. It is irreplaceable. And it is leaving us all gutted as we prepare to await at least eight more months until we get to do it again. This is who we are. This is what we love. And now it is gone.
We don’t actually know that all shows will survive. Some may close before the industry is even allowed to reopen. It is a giant black hole of unknown-ness. The sense of helplessness is unbearable. We try to maintain hope. We wait and we watch people recklessly carry on as if nothing is happening; as we sit glued to the news hoping for a shred of hope that we may return to our beloved community; as we hope more stimulus money comes our way so we can try to survive on a fraction of what we actually earn. And there’s the matter of expiring health benefits for many, which is a whole other conversation…..
I am very fortunate. My wife does not work in this industry and, thankfully, is still employed. We are both healthy and I am grateful beyond words for what we do have. I am not in the same financial boat as my peers. I worry about them daily, again, helpless. They have worked, trained and studied a lifetime to be who they are and where they are, and now it’s gone. It is tragic. It is unfair. It is also infuriating, because it didn’t need to be this way. My heart breaks for each and every one of them, to the point it has moved me to tears on a number of occasions.
So, what do we do? We focus on what we can control. We speak out. We learn new skills. We teach lessons and clinics. We do remote sessions and virtual concerts. We get ourselves healthier. We stay positive. We connect. All of those are productive uses of our time; however, none of those fill the void we all feel by not being able to go to work. And none of those make the feeling of helplessness dissipate as we sit back watching, waiting and hoping for the nation to get on board and help us. We need everyone to take this seriously. NOW. Not after the election. Not after there is an approved vaccine. NOW.
Our hearts, souls and livelihoods depend on it.