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Moving On

Broadway performances resume two days after the attack on the World Trade Center. logo
In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the reaction of the New York theater community appears to have been similar to that of communities everywhere: stunned silence. Initially, as is well known, performances of all Broadway and Off-Broadway shows were canceled. Broadway returned to its regular schedule last evening--Thursday, September 13--after a two-day hiatus, following a dimming of marquee lights and a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in these attacks. Jed Bernstein, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, stated that, "after the dimming of the lights, we're going to get back stronger than ever."

Jan Svendsen, the League's marketing director, confirmed that she placed the half-page ad in the Thursday edition of The New York Times which contained the following message: "At 8pm tonight, Broadway will dim its lights but not its spirit when performances resume as scheduled." (Due to a printing error, the League's responsibility for the ad was deleted.) Svendsen also said that there had been some discussion of offering $20 tickets for individual shows last night, but was unaware of any definite commitments to that policy. Mark Roth, president of the League of Off-Broadway Theatres, said that his membership is chiefly concerned at the moment with "getting things back to normal." Asked what he's heard about casts and crews, Roth replied, "I think everybody is anxious to get back to work."

Exactly what will constitute "normal" for an industry that would be greatly affected by a drop in tourism is impossible to know at the moment. "No one is thinking about it," Bernstein said, adding that "people want to be with each other" right now. He mentioned that he was mourning the lost firemen whose base of operations had been what he described as the "Broadway firehouse" at 48th Street and Eighth Avenue. "I'm not thinking about whether tourists from Cleveland will be coming to New York in October," Bernstein said. "In the next few days, we'll start to think of those things."

With potential changes in the political and social climate remaining unknown, few were willing to speculate about the future. Saying "we haven't addressed that particular concern yet," producer/publicist Jeffrey Richards pointed out that rehearsals for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) were continuing. He added that the cast of A Thousand Clowns, another of his shows, is "eager to perform."

Throughout the past few days, many in the community have recalled the gallantry with which British actors and crews performed during the Blitz in World War II; the implication is that American theater personnel will likely show the same mettle. At the same time, of course, observers are wondering if audiences will shrink. Questions about how New York theater might change were the tourist trade to no longer be a primary marketing target seemed far from receiving concrete answers. Whether Broadway would once again be geared to the tastes of the local population--and, indeed, whether the very subject matter of new drama and comedy will change if the world is plunged into a wartime frame of mind--will have to await later examination and analysis.

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