As of March 12, the neon lights haven’t been bright on Broadway.
Broadway went dark—due to attempts to contain the coronavirus pandemic—and it has cost thousands of stagehands, makeup artists, ushers, musicians and actors their jobs.
On Friday the Broadway League (an organization made up of 14 unions representing a variety of employees) announced the emergency relief agreement, The New York Times reports. Per the agreement, Broadway producers will pay “actors, musicians, stagehands and others for the first few weeks of the industry shutdown and to cover their health insurance for at least a month.”
Broadway had hoped to get back to entertaining packed houses by April 13, but now it looks as if The Great White Way won’t reopen until May or June. We spoke to six actors from various Broadway shows about what they’re doing during the #quarantine.
Rashidra Scott—Susan, Company
My husband and I bought a new bed two years ago and I don’t really get to spend a whole lot of time in it, so I’m making up for lost time. I’ve just been catching up on sleep and hanging out with the dog. My husband, he’s a massage therapist, and I work completely opposite schedules, so this is probably the most we’ve seen each other consistently since our honeymoon and vacation.
I’ve read two books. I finally finished Educated by Tara Westover. Really fascinating read. There’s a fantastic app I love called Libby. If you have a library card you can attach it to Libby to digitally download and borrow books for a week.
We’ve been rewatching The Wire, because when it was on I had watched it in snippets and chunks. Last night we had the good fortune of watching the Hillary documentary. It’s so good, but it’s so sad, given this time that we are living in. My husband and I just kept looking at it and saying, “How did the country mess this up?”
Ephraim Sykes—Michael Jackson, MJ The Musical
Everybody got the news at the same time that Broadway was shutting down. We immediately went into planning how we can support one another in the moment, not just the performers and actors, but the stagehands and the people that depend on these theaters for their livelihood. The goal was to put funds together to make this time sustainable for all of us. A lot of us in the community don’t have monstrous savings that we can go for weeks on end without getting a paycheck.
I have a little bit of extra time to dig into all my Michael Jackson stuff. I’m reading all these books. I’m watching every concert, just doing all the things. I’ve changed my apartment around to make my living room sort of like a dance studio. I’ve got my mirrors out here, so I’m thinking of ways to allow people to watch how I’m at home practicing all of our favorite Michael Jackson moves.
This role is bigger than a role. Michael Jackson has always been my hero. I’m trying my best to balance the amount of rest so I can enter into this next season full throttle. I’m practicing, practicing, practicing, taking my voice lessons and digging even more into the reading materials and talking to people that knew him personally. It gives me more time to let this thing bake and be even better when the time comes.
Daniel J. Watts—Ike Turner, Tina, The Tina Turner Musical
I called my mom immediately, like, “Moms, go to the grocery store. It’s about to get crazy.” The next day I called out of the show and three hours later they pulled the plug on all shows.
There was one usher who had the virus and worked at two theaters: one off 45th street and another on 47th street. Tina is on 46th Street, so it was in our backyard.
I live in Harlem and there’s a lot of people who are much more scared of Con Edison cutting the lights off than the coronavirus getting them. For them, the hustle continues. People are like, “Look, I’ve been sick before, so we got to get these coins.” It’s sad, but I also get it. The activity has slowed down a lot since they shut down the shops and nonessential stores.
I’ve been reading, writing, catching up on my Netflix, especially Money Heist. I’ve been on Money Heist for the last three days. It isn’t a quick smash and grab. I’m working on a play about soccer legend Pelé. And I’m working on music. I have a piece I’m going to put out soon. It’s an ode to those of us who make our livelihood by gathering people en masse. There’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t have time to do before because I was working six days a week, doing eight shows per week since October. Now I have nothing but time.
Jelani Remy—Eddie Kendricks, Ain’t Too Proud
Selfishly, my heart was broken because for a lot of us, Broadway is our happy place. And to think that it’s been compromised is devastating. Every time it’s close to showtime, my body is ready to go, but there ain’t no place to go.
I’ve got to convince my mom to stop going out, because she always thinks she needs something from the store, like a pack of chicken. I think she’s trying to be social. She says she and her girlfriend don’t shop close to each other. I told her it doesn’t matter. The virus does not discriminate. Stay home.
I have a club in the living room. I have a VIP room in the bathroom. I’m definitely taking the time to spring-clean. I organize, I got rid of a lot of stuff. I do a lot of FaceTiming. I’m also spending the time writing my own work. I’ve been working on my solo show, my own cabaret I definitely want to launch when this is all over. I’ve been in this business since I was 19 and I want to share my journey through song and share some anecdotes from my life.
Phylicia Pearl Mpasi—Swing performer, The Lion King
I came home to Maryland. My mom and sisters are here. Everyone came home because of the coronavirus. I’m actually a homebody, so this is great for me. This break has given me so much time to get back to things that I’ve let go. I’m a writer, so I’ve been writing a lot—TV pilots and shows. I’m getting back in touch with my family. I’m catching up on TV and I’ve been running a lot, which I don’t normally do. I don’t know if it’s anxiety or me trying to combat the depression staying inside. I’m not at the breaking point just yet.
This break has given me so much time to get back to things that I’ve let go.Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, swing performer, The Lion King
Because it is a rest time, I don’t want to do anything out of the ordinary. When I wake up, I’m stretching my body, drinking tea and training my voice as much as I can during the day. Cardio is a really good full body warm-up, which I need to do because it takes a lot of stamina to do the show.
When I’m in the show, I don’t sleep until about 2:00 a.m., and my body is still on that cycle, even though I’m trying to force myself to get up earlier. I can’t, and I just cannot fall asleep until 2:00 a.m.
J. Daughtry—John Thomas, touring company, Miss Saigon
I don’t feel anxiety. I feel at peace with what is happening, like I’m being directed. I’m planning an Instagram Live concert this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. I’ll be singing songs from shows I’ve been in, like Motown: The Musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, of course, Miss Saigon. And I’m doing a special song. I’m going to try to invite a special friend of mine to join me in doing a song from The Color Purple.
Initially, I was nervous because I haven’t been in a situation like this since 2008. I was a banker and back in 2008 when those banks crashed, I had the same feeling, like, “Oh, my God, what am I going to do?” Now I think I’m settling into it and knowing that I’m alive and I have a roof over my head. When you’re touring for two years, you give up your apartment, so you don’t necessarily have a home to go to, so I’m staying at a friend’s house.
I’m also working on a Christmas album I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Taiia Smart Young (@taiiasmartyoung) is a writer, an editor and a content creator from Brooklyn.