The Show Must Not Go On

Delaney Murphy, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The lights of the Great White Way went black last March, leaving numerous shows closed and countless performers’ jobs on hold in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Broadway recently made the decision to extend the shutdown until May 30, 2021, which means that, by the time theaters reopen, these actors will not have performed for audiences in over a year.

Stephanie Gomérez, an ensemble member in the New York cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has felt the strain the pandemic has placed on performing artists.

“I feel like there is a lot of pressure to be productive as a performer when in actuality there isn’t much work to be done,” Gomérez said.

Gomeréz does not believe that many theatergoers would, if given the opportunity, attend a Broadway show while the pandemic still rages.

“Although actors, creatives, crew, and staff consider the theater to be an essential job, most people see it as a frivolous expense,” Gomérez said. “So, audiences, I can imagine, won’t feel safe unless there are social distancing precautions.”

Gomérez explained that, due to shows’ reliance on ticket sales, implementing precautions against COVID-19 may pose a challenge when it comes to keeping the shows running.

“If they didn’t aim to fill every seat in the house (which cannot be safely done yet), the show would have no money to stay open,” Gomérez said.

Tamar Greene, the current George Washington in Hamilton on Broadway, believes that people need to understand the reasons behind why actors cannot simply return to the stage.

“We have certain castmates, for example, who … have illnesses that they are fighting themselves,” Greene said. “We all deserve to work in an environment where it is safe for everyone.”

Because theater performers cannot act in their shows right now, many of them are working other jobs to support themselves.

“I teach private lessons, I do a lot of master classes with colleges and such,” Greene said.

Analise Scarpaci, who plays Lydia Hillard in the musical adaptation of the film Mrs. Doubtfire, earns money through performance-oriented work that can be done safely.

“I’ve been teaching Zoom dance classes consistently, which has really been keeping me sane,” Scarpaci said. “I’ve also been working on an online production of Annie, assisting the creative team, which has really been a great experience.”

Cameron Pow, who currently plays Zazu in Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway, is not currently working in performance and music-related fields, but still makes money from previous acting jobs.

“This is obviously a different situation from normal, but I have so far … been able to support myself through unemployment benefits and savings, along with some supplemental income from residuals/royalties from television work,” Pow said.

Although other forms of acting are returning much sooner than live theater, the immediate future remains uncertain for many performing artists.

“If I can’t produce an income from [acting work] in the next several months … I may have to turn my hand to teaching or finding work in a new field,” Pow said.

While the current situation is bleak, one day in the somewhat distant future, performers will be back to work, and the lights of the Great White Way will shine again.

“[Theater] is a necessary art form, and I’m sure only positive changes will occur as a result of all this for the future. I look at this as a useful and productive reset button instead of just a destructive pause, and I’m excited at the prospect of returning to the stage and all of the creativity that is to come!” Pow said.