(Daniel Arkin’s article appeared on ABC News on 8/7; via the Drudge Report. Photos: The livelihoods of thousands of Broadway performers were dramatically upended after the coronavirus crisis forced theaters and productions to shut down in March.Adrian Lam / NBC News)
“We have to pave a new way forward, because this industry is not ever going to be the same,” one actor said.
Last fall, Arturo Luís Soria made his Broadway debut in “The Inheritance,” a much heralded two-part play about the legacy of the AIDS epidemic and New York’s gay community. Soria, who landed his part in June 2019, called the experience a “dream come true.”
In any other year, the role might have opened doors for more high-profile opportunities on Broadway, where attendance last season reached 14.77 million.
But instead, Soria, 33, has spent much of the last month far from New York City. He is taking an open-ended road trip through the U.S., camping out in national parks and teaching acting classes over Zoom.
With his industry at a virtual standstill and performance venues indefinitely shuttered, Soria, who has taken to wryly calling himself a “vagabundo” (vagabond) actor, said he has no idea when he will return to New York City.
“I’ve watched the industry slowly disappear,” he said in a phone call from Moab, Utah. “I want to be hopeful, but my gut feeling is that theater will be closed longer than we think.”
Soria is one of thousands of Broadway performers — actors, singers, dancers — whose professional livelihoods and financial circumstances were dramatically upended after the coronavirus crisis forced theaters and productions to shut down in March. The situation has the feeling of a dystopian “A Chorus Line” or a three-act play with an unfinished script: No one quite knows how it will end.
Broadway is set to remain dark until at least January — a massive blow to an industry that last year contributed more than $14.7 billion to the city’s economy and supported 96,900 local jobs, according to a leading trade group. New York theaters, with their crowded lobbies and tightly packed seats, are hardly spaces for social distancing.
The shutdown also spells financial peril not only for the performers, directors and lighting and costume designers, but also for enormous behind-the-scenes crews, many of whose members rely on state unemployment assistance and feel even more economically insecure now that the $600 weekly federal stimulus benefit has expired.
In candid and wide-ranging conversations, Broadway performers described hastily patched-together backup plans, including switching to new careers or permanently leaving New York City, and their worries about a possible “mass exodus” of artistic talent from the city.
The disruptions of the last few months have been especially stinging for performers who spent years trying to get on stage in a famously competitive and necessarily ephemeral artistic profession, only to see the curtains unceremoniously fall.