New York, NY – The Great White Way will be closed until the eve of Labor Day in September, according to Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing actors and stage managers in live theatre.
The announcement comes on the heels of children across the Empire State and the country starting to exhibit signs and symptoms similar to that of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock that may be tied to COVID-19 — despite earlier reports that youngsters were less likely to become ill or die from the virus.
There have been some 85 potential cases of children contracting the virus in New York, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. There have been 38 cases in New York City and three deaths — two elementary-aged children, one adolescent, according to State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. None of the children were known to have pre-existing conditions.
Effective immediately, Actors’ Equity will work with Dr. David Michaels, the former assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during the Obama administration, to help develop new health and safety standards for COVID-19.
“David’s expertise will be invaluable during this unprecedented time,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “Ultimately, while the employers are solely responsible for ensuring the health and safety of all actors and stage managers, Equity is committed to being an industry leader to help develop model health and safety standards that will eventually allow us to reopen and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.”
The approximately 40 Broadway theaters in New York City in 2019, brought in 14,618, 664 theatergoers, according to research from Broadway League, the national trade association for theater owners, theater operators, producers, presenters, general managers, suppliers & servicers.
The league also consists of restaurateurs, shipping and freight companies, booking agents, travel agents, designers, ticketing agents and hotel managers who also benefit from the business that Broadway generates in bringing people from 200 cities across the U.S. and Canada.
“The Broadway League’s membership is working in cooperation with the theatrical unions, government officials, and health experts to determine the safest ways to restart our industry,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League. “Throughout this challenging time, we have been in close communication with Governor Cuomo’s office and are grateful for his support and leadership as we work together to bring back this vital part of New York City’s economy – and spirit.”
The previous Broadway season (2018-2019) grossed $1.83 billion, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. The 14.77 million-attendance topped that of the New York and New Jersey’s 10 professional sports teams combined (Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Islanders, Knicks, Liberty, Giants, Jets, Devils and Nets).
The industry supports 96,900 local jobs and 65-percent of its audience was made up of tourists, according to the Comptroller’s Office.
The aforementioned profit and job creation, doesn’t take into account the revenue that is also brought in by combined 40 Off-Broadway (100 to 499-seat theaters) productions and Off-Off Broadway (theaters with 99 or less seats) productions, according to wheretraveler.com, a premier traveling website. Nor does that account for the revenue generated by some of the regional or not-for-profit theaters in the state.
As Dr. Michaels works to implement safety procedures to respond with the ongoing crisis, Equity has launched the Curtains Up Fund to support its members, and COBUG, which is a coalition of the various trades and guilds within the theatre industry who are joining them to make sure members from both organizations receive their benefits from collective bargaining agreements.
To aid the arts community, Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed St. Martin and 26 others in the arts, culture and tourism industries to an advisory council to help in the recovery efforts for the labor and workforce of New York City.
“While all Broadway shows would love to resume performances as soon as possible, we need to ensure the health and well-being of everyone who comes to the theatre – behind the curtain and in front of it – before shows can return,” said St. Martin.