#MIKECHECK | ENDURING THE INTERMISSION
Updated: Nov 14
By Mike Hallinan | Arts & Entertainment Columnist
Welcome to 'Mike Check', a brand new weekly column written by New York local and our resident Broadway expert Mike Hallinan. Check in every Friday for new Arts related content perfect for lovers of live entertainment.
Whenever I have met someone, whether it be for the first time ever or for the first time in a while, I am often asked, “What have you been up to career wise?” Each and every time, I have told them, “I work on Broadway!” It has reached a point where up where I live, I am often inundated with questions about particular shows, best practices of getting tickets, and general knowledge of the entertainment scene in New York. I have prided myself on attaining this association with an industry that I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember. That all changed on March 12, 2020.
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. This one word, “coronavirus,” had quickly risen to the vernacular of practically everyone in the business. It became evident that there would be an impact on our industry. March 12 was when we felt that deep impact. I remember telling my mother that morning that there was a strong possibility that I would be pretty much jobless for a bit. I had a trip with friends planned to New Orleans that was quickly approaching and I texted them explaining that it would not be ideal for me to make the trip if, in fact, I had not been making money for a bit before the trip, though I also felt that I’d be back to a job sometime in April. I arrived at work to learn of news that the Broadway League, which is effectively the ruling party of Broadway made up of producers and theater owners, had gone into an emergency meeting with the Mayor of New York City. I went about my day promoting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I went in for my lunch break...and never walked back out. As my colleagues stood around our office, our boss explained that, effective immediately, Broadway shows were on hiatus until April 12, 2020. I would be paid for my work that week, but that would be it. I went home thinking about what I could do for the month that I would be without a job. That was over seven months ago, and I still find myself asking that question to an extent.
It is painfully obvious that Broadway will be the last industry to reopen in this new age of COVID. It is simply not financially feasible for producers to have their houses open at even 50% capacity, let alone people without masks or socially distancing both on stage and in the audience. The latest projection for the return of Broadway is June 1, 2021. Hopefully by then there will be a vaccine and/or treatments for COVID-19 so that audiences can pack the houses of Broadway, but that remains to be seen. The one constant in my life that has been there has gone on a long intermission and these house lights have yet to blink to signal us that the eagerly awaited second act has begun. That does, however, not mean that we cannot enjoy our “souvenirs” and “refreshments” during the wait.
While we cannot see a live Broadway show for the foreseeable future, many people have found ways of reminding themselves of the joys that were and the joys to come. For example, the day after Broadway shut down, I started my Big On Broadway Podcast, where, albeit off and on, have shared my love for theater with others. Lately, there has also been a growing trend of musical theater or straight dramas being broadcast in the homes. Whether it be the recording of Hamilton that was fast tracked to the Disney+ streaming service, a Zoom reading of a Shakespearean masterpiece, virtual cabarets, or a new musical recorded via podcast, theater in the time of COVID has lived on for the fans. There are also those “stage door” opportunities where fans can interact with stars, whether it be on social media, the popular Cameo app, or by donating to charity. For the professionals, there have been ways of honing their craft. As I collect unemployment now, I have managed to hire an amazing voice teacher that has helped shape my voice. Other friends have honed their craft through socially distant headshot sessions, or dance classes via Zoom. Look at it this way, imagine you were a baker when all of a sudden the industry has to take a hiatus. Do you just sit it out at home? Chances are, you find online classes and get cooking, making new recipes for when the bakeries reopen. The same goes for Broadway professionals. I often read, usually in the comments of the latest article extending the shutdown, that the theater is dead. Those words greatly annoy me, mostly because I have long associated myself with an art form that has done phenomenal things for me in my life. I, as like the theater, am not dead. We’re just changing, and much like the witches of Oz, we will be changed for good!
People now ask me what am I doing with Broadway shut down for the foreseeable future. My response has been that I am taking things one day at a time and embracing the silver linings, especially my voice lessons and an appearance in an upcoming virtual cabaret. I believe that there are even more silver linings that await during this time. These silver linings, however, will pale in comparison to the night where Broadway lets the audience, myself included, back in and the new phenomenal chapter of Broadway begins! Until then, we will have to simply wait for it.
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