A select number of now-dark Broadway venues will begin opening in April for a series of live- performance pop-up events that could establish the safety protocols needed for the theater industry’s eventual return.
Beginning with the Shubert Organization’s Music Box Theatre on 45th Street, Broadway theaters will be among the venues housing the events of the NY PopsUp program described as a new 100-day arts festival throughout New York City and State. The series is being overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal.
Though the PopsUp festival had been previously announced, the inclusion of Broadway theaters as the program’s “flexible venues” was disclosed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today. The series of live indoor performances across the state begins April 2. Outdoor events began Feb. 20.
The venues will utilize safety protocols, developed by NY PopsUp in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development, that will eventually be employed for Broadway’s return, according to the NY PopsUp announcement.
The plan prompted Actors’ Equity Association to urge Cuomo to prioritize arts workers for Covid vaccines.
“As he wisely did when reopening restaurants, we hope that Governor Cuomo will again put workers first and prioritize getting members of the arts sector vaccinated,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “Much like workers in the restaurant industry, our members lack the ability to socially distance throughout their entire workdays, making vaccines critical for maintaining a safe workplace. We look forward to continuing to work with the state on reopening the live arts in a way that protects workers, as well as the audience.”
The use of Broadway theaters is being coordinated by the New York State Department of Health and NY PopsUp in collaboration with theater operators. Today’s announcement described the process as as “Broadway’s own pilot program” as the industry prepares for a complete re-opening.
Broadway, which went dark last March, is officially shut down due to the Covid pandemic until June, but no productions are currently expected before the fall. The Music Box Theatre is home to the current (but temporarily suspended) play Dear Evan Hansen.
Additional Broadway theaters to be used for the PopsUp series were not disclosed, but various other cultural venues were identified, including The Apollo, Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann’s Warehouse, The SHED, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, the National Black Theatre and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater.
In a joint statement, Rudin and Rosenthal said, “In just two weeks NY PopsUp has become the engine that drives the safe re-opening of the arts throughout our State. It’s a wonderful bonus to the opportunity to present 300 shows in 100 days, and to the enormous satisfaction in bringing artists back to work here. It’s incredibly exciting to see what the arts community and the state can do, together, when we all row in the same direction.”
Exactly what events are planned for April were not revealed due to the “impromptu nature and surprise element” of the format, the organization said. The events and locations will be announced by NY PopsUp via Twitter and Instagram. A musical performance by Gavin Creel, Shoshana Bean and others was staged in a storefront on the Lower East Side last weekend.
The festival, which will run through Labor Day, began with performances by jazz musician Jon Batiste, choreographer and tap dancer Ayodele Casel and opera star Anthony Roth Costanzo for New York’s health care workers last month at the Javits Center, where Covid vaccines are being administered.
The Festival will conclude with the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and the new Festival at Little Island at Pier 55. Performances statewide are expected to total more than 1,000. The events are described as “interdisciplinary” and will be free of charge.
Today’s announcement by Cuomo outlined the state’s plans for indoor reopenings effective April 2, when “the number of attendees may exceed the social gathering limit of 50 people, up to a maximum of 150 attendees, within a 33% maximum occupancy limit for the particular area so long as all attendees receive an appropriate negative diagnostic test result prior to the event.”