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Last December, Kilty Reidy left his Hell’s Kitchen apartment and boarded a flight to Australia. He knew that the first act in his appointment as a Standby for Come from Away would be 14 days in a hotel room in strict quarantine.
“It was both the worst thing in the best thing. I was leaving the States when cases were getting really high and you’re feeling really itchy about what was happening. It felt like I was running from a sinking ship a bit. So to get there and to get to the room, albeit you were stuck in that room for two weeks — I knew that I was completely safe. I knew there was no virus around me. I knew the minute I had my first test and I was COVID free, that I was good to go,” Kilty told us from Sydney yesterday.
“When I got here, I would walk by bars and restaurants and take videos and send them to my friends back in New York — like I was an on alien planet, like a different planet. In December, it was like COVID was not in Australia,” shared Kilty.
Yesterday, it was a very different story for Kilty and his colleagues in New South Wales — their show has been stopped and the stay at home order that had lasted two weeks and was due to end on Friday has been extended for a further week (until 7/16).
Kilty has watched as the situation has flipped in just 7 months, with his Hell’s Kitchen and Broadway friends enjoying New York opening up and vaccination numbers soaring — while Australian cities have locked down, shows are closed and socially distanced walks are the only recreation.
“Here they had zero cases. One would pop up here and there and they would suppress it. They felt like they were keeping it out,” Kilty said about how Australians have approached the battle with COVID. “Now with this Delta variant, they’re having to switch to ‘we’re going to now have to manage this virus’. There will be no living without the virus. It is here. It has climbed the wall. People mentally have had to switch gears. They’ve gone from ‘we don’t have the virus’ to ‘we’re going to have to get vaccinated and co-exist with this virus’.”
Australia has been slow to vaccinate — with fewer than 8 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the country is ranked dead-last in the OECD table worldwide.
Reidy is used to standing by — that’s his job, covering for principal actors in the show. He’s also had to get used to the stop-start of Australian theater during the pandemic — and he thinks that’s an indication of what we should expect from the future. “Since I got here, I’ve done three cities. In each city there has been an outbreak and a lockdown. We did a week locked down in Melbourne. We did a week in Brisbane and now we’re on three weeks here,” said Kilty, who heads back to the States next month to get ready for a US tour of Come from Away.
“It makes me go back to the States thinking, ‘this isn’t the end of the ride’. It’s like a roller coaster. I don’t know when the next hill is and I don’t know when the drop is either. So you just have to do your best to just be buckled in and hold on. I go back on tour September 20th starting in Memphis. We have all our cities booked, but just because it’s all written down on paper, doesn’t mean that’s the way it plays.”
The pandemic has changed the culture of theater. The old adage of “The Show Must Go On” has taken on a different meaning where backstage snuffles are concerned. “It’ll be interesting to see how that culture changes,” said Kilty. “Here, we travel with a COVID compliance officer. Now, people call in because they feel a sniffle or don’t feel right. They’ll wait and get tested because there is none of that sort of ‘the show must go on’. Clearly, we’ve already broken that trope. You’re allowed to stay home. You’re allowed to be sick. You have a responsibility to stay home.”
However, Reidy is part of the team that ensures the show does go on. His role as a Standby differs from Swings and Understudies: “A Standby would be someone that covers principal roles and is not on stage. They are just offstage waiting to go on. A swing would be a chorus member who covers other chorus members. And then an understudy would be somebody in the chorus or a swing who covers a principal part,” he explained.
Kilty heads back to Hell’s Kitchen in August and will be making sure to support Restaurant Row favorites Joe Allen, Orso and Bar Centrale where he has consistently worked between shows. “That place is my family there. I live right on 50th and Eighth. When I worked at Joe’s, they used to laugh when I would have to do a double. I’d walk home. I’d go take a shower. I change and I’d come back. They both loved it and hated me for it,” he laughed.
“Come August, I can’t wait to be wheels down in the States, get in the cab and get to Hell’s Kitchen. I’ll make a reservation at Joe’s and support these businesses that have been closed that are now trying to come back. I’m so excited to do that.”