This morning, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio set the stage with co-stars André De Shields and Telly Leung for New York theater to return in the fall.
The Mayor laid out a plan for mass vaccination of arts and culture personnel at their place of work. He promised to set up a dedicated COVID-19 vaccination site on Broadway for the theater industry. There will also be a mobile unit that will travel to off-Broadway locations.
He appealed for more guidance from New York State on an opening plan, saying: “We’ll do the vaccinations. We’ll do the testing. We’ll help with the crowd management, working with the theaters. We’ll do everything in our power to bring Broadway and off-Broadway back strong, but we need some help from the State.”
The Mayor said he would work closely with the unions. Earlier in March, Actors’ Equity Association said that the Mayor’s plans for “Open Culture” were “disappointing and unfair to the arts workers in our city.”
De Blasio set a target date of a September restart. “There’s a long lead time for Broadway shows to come back. And this is why it’s so important to be talking about this today in March. Looking ahead to September, to put together a Broadway show is a huge endeavor,” he said.
During the City Hall announcement, the Mayor was joined by Hadestown actor André De Shields from his Manhattan Plaza home. “New York is on its way back, but it will not completely arrive until Broadway and all theater across this great city has returned,” De Shields enthused. “We been doing our best to stay ready. We stayed in shape. Our voices are strong. All we need is a stage. And from what you’ve shared with us, you’re going to take care of that.”
Hell’s Kitchen resident and Aladdin lead, Telly Leung, also hopped on the call. “This pandemic has hit our industry particularly hard and it’s affected so many of my friends and talented colleagues. And as we continue to turn the corner on this pandemic, I know that New York city is yearning for the lights to be back on Broadway,” he said.
“It’s time for all of us to heal from the trauma of what’s happened to us as a city and as a country and as a world. And that is where artists come in. We help heal the soul and we help unpack all of the trauma from this last year, not just with the pandemic, but also with the racial and social wounds that have come up because of the pandemic, which had been felt very acutely by my AAPI community in recent days. And artists will be essential in how we heal from this and understand the world and each other better, so that we are stronger and that we are better equipped to deal together with other challenges that come our way,” added Telly.
The vaccination program on Broadway will start in April and will be open to performers and those who work behind the scenes. The Mayor said that the theater needed clear guidance on mask usage and testing requirements from the State to move forward with plans to get New York theater back in the fall. He stressed that the City will use this template to bring back all theater. “The whole theater community is crucial to bring back the city,” he said.