A key to more black pieces is more black producers. Actor Blair Underwood and former basketball player Renee Montgomery are putting money behind Pass Over by Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, which last month became the first play to open since it closed. Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET television channel, invests in Keenan Scott's play II, Thoughts of a Colored Man.
This is part of a seven play by Black writers announced for the season, including Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau, directed by Santiago-Hudson. He says, "I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm happy to a certain extent with the way I see progress presenting itself, but eventually it will really turn out whether it is a movement or just a moment.
"I can speak personally about my relationship with MTC, the Manhattan Theater Club , that there are changes that I clearly see - visceral changes - and mores to come. I'm very happy with what we're doing there but I'm not in those other theaters.
"I see what they say and I want just feel what they're doing in the years to come so that the ground that everyone can stand on is more level ground, one that truly hears your voices. I'm not so much interested in the policies and the statements made if the attitudes don't change.
The pandemic has upset many industries but has had a particular impact on the theater, which has a community experience, usually indoors, to its based. The Drama League , America's only creative hotbed for directors, supports the careers of young artists, for example by placing them on their first Broadway shows ou television.
Gabriel Stelian-Shanks , artistic director of the league, recalls:“ In two weeks, the work has changed completely. Suddenly we got calls from people saying, "Gabriel, can you help me? I have lost all my job and cannot feed my family. How can I do my shopping? People said. “I woke up with a fever of 103 and have no health care. What should I do? '
"I had to intervene with landlords who were trying to kick artists out of their apartments because they wanted kick them out. So we became that kind of emergency social service organization literally in less than two weeks. We created an emergency fund to help people get through those difficult first days.We created programming to try to keep our community together because no theater has been produced in America for a year. We turned to a lot of online work. "
Stelian-Shanks adds: " In the best sense, it was a very busy time. innovation and euphoria, but it was really hard: a lot of sadness and a lot of heartbreak. I hope this moment turns us into something new and exciting. I hope we can not only go back to our steps, but learn all the lessons we have been forced to learn over the past 18 months.
Lessons are being applied across the country as theaters strive to reopen safely. At Arena Stage in Washington last week, ticket holders for the first night of Toni Stone were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent rapid antigen test before entering the building. Ushers carried signs saying" Masks on. , phones off. "Instead of an opening night, guests were given takeout boxes of goodies.
Stelian-Shanks says: "The theater is back. There is no momentum to close. We are waiting for our audience. When I think of fragility, that's how we do this moment. Here in New York - and it's becoming a norm across America - to come to places like the live theater, you have to be vaccinated and wear a mask.
" See us already in the first shows that opened - Hadestown , Pass Over, Waitress - this has a really positive effect on the possibility of meeting safelyrite. What we're going to do is look at best practices, the health of our audience and our artists, but staying open. "
About 16 Broadway Shows are scheduled to open this month, including the return of musicals or plays that had aired for years before closing. The effort is being promoted by a week of outdoor shows in Times Square, a video with Oprah Winfrey and a TV special.
While London has struggled with a stop-start approach to reopen with shifting capacity and quarantine rules, Broadway hopes its long wait will be rewarded. Ken Davenport, producer of Kinky Boots and Once on This Island, told Reuters news agency : "L 'one of the best things Broadway has done over the past 18 months has been not to try to come back too early. This policy has done a very good job of ensuring that customers have the confidence that when we return we will be back. back for good. ”
Tickets appear to sell out quickly for September, but the Delta variant, which caused a huge increase among unvaccinated Americans, remains unpredictable and many international tourists - who accounted for one in five ticket sales in 2019, according to the Broadway League - are still not allowed to travel to the United States.
Heather Raffo , an actress and screenwriter of Broadway's hit 9 Parts of Desire, said: “Thes actors I know who return to the rehearsal rooms are very excited. There is a sacredness in a rehearsal space that we aspire to. We just can't wait to be in this room.
"But with Delta nothing is resolved. People have children who are not vaccinated. I like every precaution but my friends are careful. They don't know yet if they can really hope and dream. They are like, oh, am I going to go to rehearsal and it's just going to be stopped again ? "
Cody Renard Richard, 33, contracted the coronavirus in March 2020 and was suffering from body aches, shortness of breath and fever, losing his sense of taste and smell. It took him a little over a month to recover at home and had to turn to the A tors for help with his rent. He is now production manager of Pass Over at August Wilson Theater in New York.
He talks about his opening last month: “People are watching us to make sure we're doing things right so they can do it right. We cannot put all of this on ourselves. We just have to do the show and experience it as we go. It's been the blessing of this team, they're pretty good at it. But the opening night was amazing. The energy was incredible. We were able to take that step which, a year ago, I never imagined it would be. adds: "My grandmother used to say that what is done in the dark will reveal itself and those people who quit, who treat people like shit, for lack of a better word, for years, are no longer able to do that… There are enough people who actively want this system to be different so I think because of that, noWe can slowly shape it what we want it to be. It will never be the ideal. Broadway theater is a capitalist model, so it's never going to be ideal for everyone, but we can figure out how to make it work for what we need. This is where we are. There are positive changes happening. "