Broadway Performances Resume Following WTC Tragedy
Broadway performances resumed last evening, two days after the attack on the World Trade Center, despite a series of bomb scares in the Times Square area that emptied several large buildings throughout the afternoon and resulted in special security measures being instituted at theaters.
"Yesterday was strange, because people were just starting to inch back into the city and then there was the hoopla of having to vacate all these buildings," says Craig Coursey, general manager of Broadway New York, Inc., which runs several theater memorabilia shops (including the Theatre Circle, located next to the Saint James Theatre on West 44th Street). "I think, for a lot of people who weren't downtown, that was their first real experience of the fear part of all this. Last night, at Don't Tell Mama [a local theater bar/cabaret], there was sort of a collaborative spirit. Everybody's shocked, but people had been staying in their houses for so long that they were hungry to talk to other people." Coursey told TheaterMania that, although his company had lost its World Trade Center store, no employees were present at the time of the attack.
Following a dimming of theater marquee lights in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragedy, Broadway soldiered on. One theatergoer reported that the house at Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife seemed to be about 70 percent full. Some audience members had brought American flags to the theater, and star Valerie Harper gave a post-show speech (written by Busch and the Manhattan Theatre Club's Lynne Meadow) which ran in part: "It is such a privilege for us to perform for you tonight and to see you made a choice to come out, to laugh and, most importantly, to carry on and not be ruled by fear."
What was the general feeling in the theater district around curtain time? "People were obviously so moved by what happened," says Coursey, "but you could sense that they were attempting to continue their lives and not let the attack stop them from doing that. There was a very positive spirit in the air; everyone seemed kind of stoic and proud. I know that the cast of The Producers sang 'God Bless America' as their curtain call." Coursey reports that the overall number of theatergoers in the area appeared to be smaller than usual, "but not ridiculously so. The line at the TKTS wasn't a big one, but there were still a considerable number of people there."
Performances of some Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows continued to be disrupted last night; the island of Manhattan was essentially closed below 14th Street, where many theaters housing these shows are located. As of 6am this morning, the area of the city open to vehicles and regular pedestrian traffic was extended down to Canal Street, but patrons should double check to see if specific shows will be playing tonight.
A raft of postponements and further cancellations can be expected in response to the disaster. The Broadway transfer of Urinetown, which was supposed to open last night at Henry Miller's Theatre, will instead open next Thursday, September 20. And the Roundabout Theatre Company has decided to indefinitely postpone its production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins. In a statement issued via a press release, the authors said that "Assassins is a show which asks audiences to think critically about various aspects of the American experience. In light of Tuesday's murderous assault on our nation and on the most fundamental things in which we all believe, we, the Roundabout, and director Joe Mantello believe this is not an appropriate time to present a show which makes such a demand." (Assassins was to have begun performances at the Music Box Theatre on November 1, and rehearsals were scheduled to begin next week. A replacement production for the Roundabout subscription season will be announced at a later date.)