Real Life Tragedy: Intermission Called for Broadway

by The Cowl Editor on November 13, 2020

Arts & Entertainment

Pandemic Brings Down the Curtain on Live Theatre

by Madison Palmieri ’22 A&E Staff

While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly altered everyday life, it has also negatively impacted the special events that make the everyday extraordinary. This unfortunate consequence has manifested not only in the absence of summer music festivals and limited attendance at sporting events, but also in the closure of theaters.

Theatre presents a unique challenge: unlike musical artists, actors, who typically rely on costuming, scenery, and their fellow actors, cannot easily share their talents with an audience from home. Unlike sporting events like baseball and football, typically played in outdoor arenas, most major theaters are indoors venues, which presents more of an opportunity for coronavirus to spread.

Broadway initially shut down on March 12, at the onset of the outbreak of the pandemic in the United States, when most other public venues closed their doors. Although actors and fans alike have remained hopeful that the show will soon go on, these theatre devotees will unfortunately have to wait a while longer before they can again experience the magic of a live show. According to an Oct. 9 Playbill article by Ryan McPhee, aptly titled “Broadway Officially Extends Theatre Shutdown,” “the trade association has announced that all Broadway productions will remain closed through May 30, officially extending the hiatus that was previously scheduled through January 3.”


Although certainly disappointing to avid theatergoers, this news is most tragic for those whose livelihood and income depends on the ability of live theatre to operate. McPhee explains that while Congress’ Save Our Stages bill “would authorize $10 billion in grants to live venue operators to cover rent, payroll, and more during the extended shutdown,” it is “included in the House of Representatives’ current Heroes Act, which remains stalled on the Republican-controlled Senate floor.”

Nonetheless, McPhee notes, “initiatives like the Be An #ArtsHero campaign have underscored the economic contribution the arts provides and the need for relief to arts workers now unemployed or facing income loss.”

Despite such efforts, numerous Broadway shows have been forced to close throughout the course of the pandemic: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Beetlejuice, and Frozen were some of the COVID casualties.

However, theatre fans will soon have something to look forward to. With nominations announced by actor James Monroe Iglehart on Thursday, Oct. 15, the 2020 Tony Awards are set to be presented in a virtual format sometime in the near future.

The show will certainly be one to remember, not only for its prolonged ceremony and virtual presentation, but also for its celebration of dedication, talent, and love of theatre in the midst of this difficult time.

While viewers will certainly be interested to see whether well-known nominees such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Hiddleston take home an award, perhaps the most-anticipated moment in the show will be the fate of the “Best Leading Actor in a Musical Category,” whose lone nominee, Aaron Tveit for Moulin Rouge! The Musical, needs a 60% affirmative vote by the Tony voters in order to receive the award, according to the Tony Awards rules and regulations.

Thus, although the pandemic has forced the theatre world into an intermission, the show must—and will—go on.