As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, movie, TV, music and theater productions have been forced to shut down with unprecedented speed, impacting every sector of the entertainment business.
Variety is asking people across the industry, including actors, writers, directors, producers, crew members, executives and freelance workers to write first-person essays about how their professional lives have been affected by this life-changing pandemic.
Here is the first volume in a weekly continuing series.
Filmmaker; writer/director/editor of “Lapsis”
I was all set to bring my first narrative feature film “Lapsis” to SXSW when the first cases of coronavirus started to appear in the United States. We held out hope that it would be curtailed and the premiere could still happen, but then the festival cancelled, as have so many others in the past weeks.
For a small independent film like ours, losing our premiere means the road ahead will be uncertain, but not without possibility. I’m now holed up in Patterson, N.Y., about an hour north of Manhattan. It’s the very place where we shot the film, so taking a daily walk into the woods where just last summer we built sci-fi sets and had robots roaming around is surreal.
I feel lucky to be in a rural place amid all this, and I did spend most of this past year in an editing room in the city, so quarantine is not a foreign concept. But unless the movie sells soon, I do need to get back to having a real income, which for me usually means editing or directing commercials for advertising agencies in New York. But with that industry disrupted just like all others, it’s a question of when that work would be available again.
As someone who has been doing this kind of freelance work for the past decade, it’s not unusual to hit a spell of time where no work is coming and the next opportunity is uncertain, so I feel ready for that aspect of our situation.
What feels less known is the nature of the crisis itself, how to move around and relate to other people and wrap my head around the scale of what’s going on outside my little bubble here.
We just cut a new teaser for “Lapsis” and posted it on Instagram, still hoping to get the word out about the film and find a distributor. And in the meantime, I think I’ll be using the weeks ahead to start writing a new film.
Actor, “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J Walker”
It’s bigger than us. More far-reaching and all-encompassing than ourselves. After an exhausting two-show day, I woke up early the next morning to join Octavia Spencer for our N.Y. press junket to promote “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J Walker,” that premiered this week on Netflix.
Though we’d been feeling the initial winds of change (when the NBA canceled their season the previous evening), I was still shocked when word came down, in the middle of the junket, that Broadway would be dimming their lights for approximately a month. Though I am saddened by the sudden halt to our Broadway production of “A Soldier’s Play” after our March 11 performance, I am grateful that the lights were darkened only four days before our scheduled March 15 closing.
I am thankful that our immensely talented company was able to essentially complete the run, save a few bows. Conversely, I am heartbroken that all of the people that make up our theatrical community of artisans, producers, stagehands, ushers, etc…all those who rely on the economic lifeblood that is Broadway, are so adversely affected. In these times, as we face the ever-present winds of uncertainty, I am reminded of the power of community, our “wide and universal theater” of humanity.
I was recently texting with one of my dear friends, successful Broadway alum and Carnegie-Mellon University classmate, Kate Suber about the shuttering of our Broadway houses. Her words succinctly encapsulated this moment. “The Broadway community has always been a stalwart grassroots force in the face of disaster (HIV and post 9/11). I believe the creative heart, will and mind, will find its way to care for its community and be strong. These are the times that art and truth ultimately and uniquely prevail.”
Yes! We will prevail, we must prevail…together.
Showrunner, “The Magicians” and “You”
We were just finishing post on “The Magicians” so our last playback was just several days ago. That’s the last time that I hugged anyone who isn’t my husband. It was John McNamara, and it was our last playback together. This situation is altering some plans for the last few episodes of “The Magicians,” but we have been in touch with that marketing team and they have been determined to send the show off properly. We’re having a virtual cocktail party. I think it’s really important right now to stay in contact with people and see their faces as much as you can.
I was already feeling concern for everyone who was finding themselves out of work now that “The Magicians” is done because we were facing the possibility of a writers’ strike, and that was slowing down a lot of stuff behind-the-scenes. In terms of our shoot dates for “You,” we were concerned that we were prepping to start right around the time of a possible writers’ strike, too. In the last few days, people on our writing staff have learned they know people who have the virus. Living in a pandemic is pretty insane, regardless of what you do, so I would say the foremost vibe in the writers’ room of “You” is being so grateful that we can keep working. We all know so many people who are in much worse situations regarding employment, so we don’t take any of this for granted.
In a writers’ room there is a lot of creative chemistry and you’re reading each other’s body language and you may pause if you see someone making a think-y face. It’s different when you’re staring at each other on a computer screen. Whoever is making noise, that’s the person you focus on on the screen. So what we’re finding is that it’s important to the staff to get on and say hello at 10 in the morning — just so we can all see each other and ask each other how we are — and then we break off into smaller groups. At this point people are starting to write outlines of episodes so those people are mostly absent from the room anyway, but I am finding that because of this set up, we need a more solid lesson plan.
We take two hours for lunch in the middle of the day so people can sit down to eat, catch up on their lives, take a walk, walk their dogs, take a nap, do some stretching — whatever they need to do. Ordinarily, I feel like how people live their lives is really none of my business, but there is this sense among the writers’ staff that we all, as humans, want to make sure we’re taken care of.
My favorite thing that has happened since we’ve been video conferencing was the moment where everybody introduced each other to their pets. The screens were just full of dogs and cats. It’s been interesting to see everybody’s set-up at home. And we’ve been joking but I’m actually serious that we’re going to make all of the pets and all of the children honorary producers of the show.
I had a lot of plans, like everyone else, work-wise. But the most important work I was doing was helping my charity A is For plan and organize our annual event, Broadway Acts For Women, which is the only Broadway community event centered specifically on celebrating and protecting abortion rights and access. It’s our biggest event of the year and we had to postpone and alter our fundraising plans and expectations for the coming months.
We’re an organization dedicated to using art and artists’ voices to expand our vocabulary around abortion and reproductive justice issues. Of course, artists are going to be hard hit. This means less time and availability to focus on our mission, which is to change the cultural conversation around abortion.
Speaking personally, I’m in a better position than many to weather this, for which I’m grateful. I’m lucky to have a garden to tend to, which is the best kind of meditation for me. I think about the people who need immediate care, particularly those who need abortion care and are losing their economic lifelines to pay for it. There’s been a health care crisis in this country since well before this, abortion care is less available to most Americans today than in 1973 when Roe was decided. In this country, your zip code or income determines your access to basic care. Potential travel restrictions like we’re hearing about will make that reality even more agonizing for many, many people.
It’s most distressing how polarized the public is about the basic science here. I’m disturbed at the way medicine and public health are politicized as if they were matters of opinion instead of quantifiably fact-based. It’s not unlike the way we talk about abortion. Lots of opinions and posturing without respect for reality. I hope that this crisis finally demonstrates to Americans how critical it is that we see every aspect of health care, once and for all, as our fundamental human right.
Owner of Brooklyn Bowl (music venue with locations in Brooklyn,
Las Vegas and Nashville) and Capitol Theater in Portchester, N.Y.
Having been through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, these are moments when you have to make decisions that are the right thing to do. The coronavirus pandemic will impact so many people. You, you as a business and a venue, but also all the employees, the fans and the bands. It’s going to get really rough.
We were scheduled to open Brooklyn Bowl Nashville on March 13 and had the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh for three nights at the Capitol Theater the same weekend to celebrate his 80th birthday. So we’re trying to move everything – push and postpone, rather than cancel, which is easier for the mid-range bands in the world vs. the big touring stuff which you can’t reschedule that fast. All the bands are going to hole up and we’ll see when they want to go out. Maybe it’ll be the summer. It could also be in the fall.
As for our new venue in Nashville, it missed the tornadoes of March 3 by half a block —the building next to us was destroyed — and while technically, we could have opened, we had to judge whether that’s the right move. You hold; you analyze; you wait; but eventually, you have to make a call and I want to be happy with the decisions I made and not think, “We should have done that differently.” When we look back on this moment, you want to be on the right side of things. No one in our organization answered, “Yeah, we should open.” So it was no.
How long is it going to be before we can have shows again? No one knows, so you have to stay actively planning: what if in three weeks, we can do this? We’re hopeful with the warm weather, which I’ve never wanted worse in my life. I’m looking at just a few days in front of me. When you start thinking too far, you get scared. We want to be smart.
You’ll see more of artists streaming performances, sure, but there is nothing like seeing live music. And the irony is that people really need it now.
I live life always believing that the sun is going to come up again tomorrow, so I’m trying to keep my head up. I’m thinking more “Touch of Grey” than “Brokedown Palace,” to quote the Grateful Dead. Still, Phil won’t turn 80 ever again.
Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce
Showrunners on Pop TV’s “One Day at a Time”
This past week, all the writers stayed home and we worked together in a virtual writers’ room using Zoom. It’s not bad. We switched from arguing about lunch to arguing, “What’s that sound?!” There’s always mysterious audio coming from somewhere. Dogs heckle your pitches. Children wander into frame as you bellow curses. It’s an adjustment.
It’s definitely not a replacement for being in a room together. Shooting the shit feels more like you’re wasting everybody’s time when you’re on a scheduled conference video chat, which is a shame because shooting the shit is not only some of the funnest time ever spent in a writers’ room, it’s often the genesis of great episodes. Luckily, we have all of our stories broken and are just revising scripts now ahead of our March 24 premiere on Pop TV. We got a lot of great work done.
It’s a strange time to be premiering. For the first time in our four seasons we actually had a slew of talk shows lined up: Kimmel, Colbert, Corden, “The View,” “CBS This Morning,” the “Today” show and a lot of other stuff we couldn’t get in the past. But we had to cancel almost all of it. Of course the health of everybody is more important than any of it.
But we do have one promotional advantage: the name of our show is also the motto of these times. Everybody says they’re taking it “One Day at a Time.”
Celebrity Trainer and host, Amazon’s “Celebrity Sweat”
My sister Rachel and her husband Eli live in Hong Kong and have been on lockdown for months. I’ve listened to their struggles of having cabin fever, searching for toilet paper multipacks, and eating tons of takeout for weeks, never imagining that the virus would find its way to the shores of California and infiltrate Hollywood without mercy.
It’s virtually paralyzed our celebrity clientele, who find it difficult at times to go anywhere without being recognized and asked for a handshake, selfie, or a hug. Many of them have self quarantined out of fear of unavoidable contact but have requested mobile workouts. My gym still attracted the fearless types, but now with the mandatory gym closures in SoCal, my FaceTime workout business has skyrocketed.
People still want a big workout, but from the comfort, seclusion, and safety of their own home. Even restaurant food delivery takes on an air of suspicion in this climate, so there is a sense of relief when I recommend bottled water and a Quest bar at the end of the workouts. “This is the only thing I’ll eat today,” they tell me, and based on their stress-fueled, ever-shrinking waistline, I believe them.
The halls of iron have always been a haven to me, where the problems of the world could be drowned out by the clanking of barbells and the grunts of those seeking a personal best lift. But in today’s air of global uncertainty, all I could think about was this place was a human Petri dish containing heavy objects. The nobility had been swept away by half the world already on forced lockdown.
I decided to do something to make a difference in the lives of those already cooped up: I grabbed a couple of actors, a musician and the White House Chef, and I made a video that is equal parts health and fitness with some inspirational messages of hope from recognizable faces. We even translated parts of it in Italian for our friends grounded in the big boot.
Actor in “Hadestown” Broadway
After a year in the ensemble and understudying the role of Orpheus in “Hadestown” on Broadway, I was looking forward to making my principal debut on March 12, 2020. That day, the inimitable Reeve Carney was taking a very well deserved break from the show. The moment I’d dreamt of my entire life was within reach.
I awoke with a familiar knot of anxiety and excitement. I went to get breakfast with my parents who had flown in from Los Angeles to see my debut. We then walked around marveling at the new McDonalds screen that looped a dance sequence from our show. We got pictures of me pointing to a 50-foot digital version of myself dancing above Times Square. Surreal is a good word for it. But what came next brought new meaning to the word.
I was sitting on the edge of my parents’ hotel bed when I read Governor Cuomo’s announcement that Broadway would be shutting down beginning at 5 p.m. that night. I sat there in disbelief and shock and I began to cry. I first mourned for my particular and peculiar loss but it eventually morphed into a cry for the loss of Broadway as a whole. To imagine NYC without the bright lights of Broadway, for any duration, was something I never thought I’d have to do. Once again, surreal.
As I write this from my couch in Southern California, I wonder about the long term effects on myself and the industry. My company has been encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits while our union, Actor’s Equity Association, works with our producers to see what can be done about compensation and benefits. We are all in uncharted waters. My wife, Molly McCook, and I are holing up in our home and practicing social distancing. Lots of staying inside, cooking, watching tv, exercising and making music.
We don’t have survival jobs outside of the jobs we’ve been fortunate enough to secure in our field, so we’re going to rely on our savings for a while. We are holding onto the hope that the extreme measures we’re taking now will curb this pandemic and help us return to normal as soon as possible.
For now, we will continue taking it one moment at a time and staying grateful for all that we do have despite what we’ve lost.
Performer, “Girl From the North Country”
I have been emotionally preparing for a shutdown for the past three weeks. I would frequently talk to some of my castmates about the possibility, realizing, however, that most people were not ready to think about the reality of shutdown.
“Girl From the North Country” takes place in the ’30s in Duluth, Minnesota during the great depression. The story surrounds a boarding house where all of its occupants are trying to get through hard times. We end the show with a Bob Dylan song called “Pressing On.” The premise of this song is, no matter what you go through, you have to press on. I never imagined we would be tested like the characters in this show.
The night before we shutdown, as I began to sing “Pressing On,” I felt it was the last time I would sing that song on the stage during this season. For some reason, I knew we weren’t coming back. The following day, as Gov. Cuomo gave his speech announcing the shutdown, I remember jumping into action mode. I immediately headed into the theater to pick up a few of my things. I have to admit, that was difficult. Knowing that we wouldn’t be performing this beautiful show anymore was a hard pill to swallow.
I am concerned about those who live check to check and I worry about how my colleagues will survive. Thankfully our union is working diligently to get funding for us during this time off.
These times are so uncertain. However, I am hopeful that we will get through this. Our future is unpredictable at the moment, but I believe it will still shine bright.
Dubbing Mixer, ADR Recordist, ADR / Sound Editor
When Coronavirus started to hit China’s film industry, I — like many other freelancers working in the U.K. film and TV industry — watched, waited and hoped we wouldn’t be too affected. But alas, we have been — and badly.
Mid-way through an ADR session last week, for a drama still shooting in Spain, we got a call to say production had been suspended due to Spain going into lockdown. No shooting means no ADR and no work for me on that production. That was the beginning of many calls saying productions had been postponed, canceled or put on hold, which of course has a knock-on effect not just for location and production crew but anyone working across post.
I had been booked on projects right through till the end of June, which for a freelancer working primarily in re-recording and ADR mixing was a very fortunate position to be in. Last Friday, my work started to fall away. My month-long contract on a long-running drama from May is up in the air because the facility may have to shut down. My job in June currently can’t shoot, so nothing will be ready for post by then. And even independent short films are feeling the effect with social distancing now in place.
A job that is traditionally precarious is now looking more insecure than ever. With all the uncertainty from the government, not a single production can determine when they can officially resume, which means freelancers are left wondering how long we will be out of work and how bad the bottleneck effect will be on the other end when these shoots start back up.
However, post houses across London are still open and operating out of both a financial need but also a delivery requirement, thankfully with a reduced staff and many working from home. There are strict policies in place with people back from visiting high-risk countries asked not to enter, anyone feeling mildly unwell asked to stay at home and self-isolate for two weeks and strict cleaning policies put in place to properly clean all equipment and surfaces.
It is a risk for any of us traveling to work each day. But when looking at a diary that has gone from half-full to nearly fully empty, for many it’s a cautious risk we might have to take.
Pushing luggage into my production-rented NYC apartment on March 4th, wondering if I had my phone charger, the Coronavirus was a distant thought. I knew it existed and “was coming,” but didn’t fathom beyond that.
Six days into prep I’m in a car with that same luggage and a friend on my way home to Boston.
I’m concerned for the safety and financial well being of crews and casts but if everything is pushed, that means we will sort this. The industry will come back.
What does make me nervous is the fate of homeless people, small businesses, kids who rely on school systems for meals. The sacrifice healthcare professionals are making on our behalf. Employees of grocery stores, gas stations, delivery services, sanitation and transit companies who are still serving us. So I’m trying to serve them through donations or at least thank them.
The Netflix TV series I produced, directed (and now will be home to watch) is “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker.” Daughter of slaves, orphaned at 7, married at 14, single mother at 19; Madam overcame racism, sexism, doubt and built a hair care empire to become the first female millionaire in the 1900s. I think of her in times of strife. How she focused on the greater good. How this Black Woman survived her circumstances to create something meaningful. Why can’t I? Why can’t we? So I have decided that this is an opportunity. This will bring us together (even if we can’t physically do so right now). The truth is, the shows will go on. Will they be different? Delayed? Will it be a scramble? Yes. (Isn’t that almost every show anyway?)
We’re going to get through this and be stronger because of it. As a proud product of #TheAvaEffect, I know if you ask any female director if they’re gonna make their day they will answer: “Yes.” My friends, we’re gonna make this day.
Frank Hillard, “Mrs. Doubtfire, The Musical”
To me there is nothing more exciting than the creation of a new musical, and after our pre-Broadway tryout in Seattle, “Mrs. Doubtfire” had just started previews on Broadway in anticipation of our April opening. We were in rehearsal when word came down that Broadway would be suspending performances, and now we all find ourselves living a world that dictates there be no social gathering for perhaps the next two months. It is surreal to pause at this point in the process, fine-tuning and making our show as good as it can be, but hopefully, we will pick right back up when normalcy returns.
The very lifeblood of any artist is to share; our stories, music, ideas and passions. Aside from the inconceivable financial devastation (affecting every business I can think of), we have all been left without that shared experience, be it on the baseball field or in a darkened theater. I am very concerned about the effects this will have on live theater; it is a fragile industry. Much less all of the productions that have been canceled, I worry about the return of our audiences. This is the biggest challenge we’ve faced. That said, our reconnecting will be more important than ever, and I know live theater is one of the best antidotes. Especially a show that is all about family and reconnecting, as ours is.
As an actor, going from job to job, I am used to periods of downtime, but not so unexpectedly! So I’ll read more, stream from the unlimited options available (plenty of “Golden Girls”) and maybe finally relearn Spanish to fully communicate with some of my husband’s family. I’ve been threatening for years!
And I will look forward to that night when Rob McClure once again appears transformed into Euphegenia Doubtfire at the end of a terrific musical number if I do say so myself. The audiences erupted nightly in delight and joy and recognition. I cannot wait to hear that sound again.
I’ve been fortunate enough to earn a living as a freelancer for the past 10 years but after this week, I have never wanted a full-time, 9-5 more.
I’m a field producer. My job is event-based, covering awards shows, movie premieres, really anything with a red carpet. At the start of March, I had four jobs booked, which isn’t a lot but not unusual as the month tends to be slower coming off award season. But as coronavirus swept the nation, those events have been canceled or postponed indefinitely, which for someone like me is really scary and brought on a wave of anxiety that I’ve never really felt before. How long will this last? My April jobs are already being rescheduled as well. How will I pay my rent, car note, insurance, etc.?
If you’re not working, you don’t have income coming in. You cover your health insurance and expenses. You’re also not eligible for unemployment benefits.
After having a few days to reflect, I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones who have savings to fall back on. Not to mention I’m healthy, stocked up on toilet paper and food and have health insurance. I’m not going to lose my apartment or my car. I have a wonderfully supportive family and friends. And I’m so very grateful for that because I know everyone doesn’t have that privilege.
The landscape of a freelancer in the entertainment business is ever-changing. Some months are busier. I’ve already been out of work for two weeks. While I care deeply about everyone’s health and containing the spread of the virus, I want to get back to business: to a sense of normalcy. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t want to drain my savings.
So with all this extra self quarantined free time, I realize all I can do is reflect. What’s next for me? Do I stick it out? Is it time for a career change? Do I need/want more stability? We shall see. I’m just trying to walk in faith and not fear.
Freelance music publicist
After 15 years as an in-house publicist for labels like Mute and Astralwerks Records, I moved to full-time freelance publicity about 18 months ago.
In the past two weeks, as the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic became undeniable and nearly every concert — let alone tour — has been postponed or canceled, every project or potential project I had lined up through this summer has disappeared.
The job interview I was supposed to go on last week was “postponed” till date TBD. I’m not sure the job will even still exist when all is said and done. The roommate I had slated to move in on March 15 is understandably staying with her parents until further notice.
In a matter of days, my income and my prospects for income became a flashing red zero for the foreseeable future.
I keep telling myself I’ll be okay. I have health insurance through the exchange. I have two living parents and a stepdad; they won’t let me starve. I can survive for a little while on what I have saved — but the truth is, I work in the music industry so my savings are minimal. It’s only going to last so long.
When I looked at my bank account and saw that my electricity auto-pay had gone through yesterday, I’ll admit my stomach jumped into my throat. Folks like me don’t get sick days, we don’t get emergency leave from an employer, we won’t have jobs waiting for us when this is all over. We need relief now.
Ten years ago, I was hit by a car while I was crossing the street. I came back from that and I will come back from this. I’m resilient and resourceful. Sitting on my couch being broke is nothing compared to recovering from spinal surgery, right? But I’m scared — and I know I’m not the only one.
Be safe. Wash your hands. Check on your neighbors. We are all doing the best we can.
When I landed in Colombia, South America to the news that my entire tour had just been canceled, it was jarring. And then we had to turn around and fly right back to LA, so to say that I was feeling a little disoriented is an understatement.
We spent so much time rehearsing and I had spent a lot of money. It was extremely difficult to look into the eyes of my crew and say, “I’m so sorry, I know I promised you work for the next few weeks, but we’re going home.” This is about the safety of my crew and of my fans. It was an extremely difficult decision to make, both financially for myself and the jobs my crew was planning on. But I needed to take care of the health of all of my people, both on the stage and in the audience.
When something catastrophic happens, everyone deals with fear differently and mob mentality seems to pop up quite a bit. You see it in the grocery stores where people are grabbing absolutely anything they can get their hands on. The only way to make it better is to not be selfish. I had to stop and take a step back the other day when I saw someone trying to hoard all the bottled water and recognize everyone’s afraid right now. I need to make a different choice and not join the mob. We have got to work together–even if we must physically be apart to do it. I canceled my tour because the very priority is to stop the spread of this disease and to do my best to be a part of the solution.
The entertainment industry is taking a huge hit from this–and I’ve felt it both personally and financially. But I want everyone to recognize the world is a team. Right now, these crises are a reminder that no matter who we are, we are all in this together. We are all affected by it.
We are living minute to minute and we must believe we’re going to be OK and we’ll get through this. I hope my sense of hopefulness is going to be helpful in people getting through it. I’m planning on doing my U.S. Tour and I’m hoping we get to do my Australian tour. However, If it gets canceled, it will be the best decision and it’s what our world needs.
After all of this, people are going to need uplifting things to bolster their spirits, and I’m blessed to be an entertainer. When people come to my shows, I want them to be in a safe space. During the Great Depression, entertainment was one of the few things that thrived because people needed an escape. Whether it’s this summer or next year, I will be ready and willing to get on the road and play my heart out to help lift people’s spirits. I’m really looking forward to that time and I believe we’ll get there soon.
Alyssa May Gold
Actress “How I Learned to Drive”
I’ve lived in New York my whole life and every time I look out, there’s a sense of camaraderie that is out on the streets. And even though I’m in my apartment right now, I feel New York is thoroughly present.
My company is still under the assumption that this production is happening. I feel optimistic based on — more than anything — the demand for Broadway to come back, but also for this play to come out.
Being in a rehearsal room as this unfolded, we all walked into the room and as information came in, we’d all pause and listen to the news, but there was this profound commitment to making this play happen. It’s something I’ll never forget. As we were getting more information, we continued the scene, and we kept ongoing.
There was a sense of responsibility as artists in a moment of crisis where we understand that it’s the moment where people are going to look to us for relief and escape. Everyone in the room remained so committed. That is still the vibe. We have a group chat.
I would love to have the opportunity to get on stage and perform. But on a global scale, we understand what we need to do as artists. We also understand the need to be safe, so for the first time, they’re both at odds. But everyone is still committed and ready to go the second we can.
My immediate concern is health insurance. As an actor of two unions, I don’t get health insurance unless I work a certain number of weeks. I’m fortunate that I have health insurance throughout the year, but there is an overwhelming number of people in the country who couldn’t get tested because they didn’t know if they could go to the doctor, is my greatest concern.
If you don’t have health insurance in a pandemic, what are we going to do? It further stoked the fire I have that we need to have universal healthcare.
What I’ve found so inspiring is we have first-person proof that there’s no collective sigh of relief that they can retreat to their caves. People are upset that they have “Hadestown” tickets and they can’t see it. It’s a testament to how important theater and art are.
I’m listening to “Hadestown,” so get that soundtrack. I run a theater company called Pocket Universe, the idea behind it is taking classic stories and reimagining them. “Six” reimagines the wives of Henry VIII and “Company” has a female Bobby.” It’s the most Pocket Universe Broadway. This is a great time to acquaint yourself with how women are claiming back the narrative.
Mr Burke, “Girl From the North Country”
Opening a Broadway show is very intense. The general public may not understand that you’re working 12-hour days for over a month as you preview your show for audiences in the evening and rehearse tirelessly during the days to tweak, polish and focus the final product for opening.
We just opened “The Girl From The North Country” at The Belasco on March 5th. A huge accomplishment for every Broadway show. Because it means you’ve completed the process, you’ve cemented the show that audiences will come and see for potentially years to come. You’re finally done rehearsing, so you get a little of your life back…
And then Thursday, March 12 hit, and overnight everything on Broadway shut down. And I’m still processing it all. To go from 100 to 0 overnight, it’s daunting, it’s jarring. For all of us. Make no mistake, I agree with Gov. Cuomo laying down such an extreme choice. We need to do this, to take care of each other, be thoughtful of each other in this unprecedented moment. And funny enough, It forces us into having time to slow down, time to listen, and just be together…
Catch up on FaceTime with friends you haven’t heard from in a while; check in with family for more than a few minutes; focus on other personal projects that are reserved for when you have the time.
There are no answers yet. But there might be some kind of gift in being forced to take life day By day right now. And once we’re through it, maybe we’ll come out a little better for it.
So let’s stay safe and take care of each other. And hopefully, by April 13th, we of the Broadway community will be BACK! I look forward to seeing you all there again!
Social distancing is new to me. My organization Hopeful Cases works with those society has always kept at a distance; the homeless. Since 2017, I have volunteered to play music in the subways with a sign that reads, “If you are homeless or need help, please take as much as you need from the case, I just like to play.” Our goal is simple; humans helping humans.
The pandemic panic had not yet peaked when I received a pleading call from my mother urging me to move back home to Albany. Though she had deployed this tactic at every grey cloud since I first moved away, she had valid concerns this time. I spend hours at a time on subway platforms, hug 20 to 30 homeless people a day, handle hundreds of dollar bills tossed by strangers, and admittedly, my hand washing skills were subpar at best. I was a prime candidate, so I did what I was told. Not by my mother, but by the CDC; I stayed home.
Somewhere between my 6th bowl of buttered noodles, it hit me. Not that I was without work. Not that the arts and entertainment, my income, had stopped indefinitely. It hit me that I had a home. I had a place with a door, and a lock on that door and a cabinet full of hand sanitizer I could even disinfect that door with. I had worked with the homeless for years and had only now truly appreciated having a home. The race to buy toilet paper and self-preserve had made me forget we still have people living on the streets tonight. Those needing help before needed it more than ever.
I’ve started brainstorming all types of plans of how I can still use music to raise money for those who need it. The social isolation is difficult but will only be in actual distance, never in thought and never in aid. With the great equalizer in play, it is now humans helping humans.
Sherri Parker Lee
Voice actor and Loop Group Coordinator
On Friday, my loop group recorded our last episode of “Dead to Me,” which, unfortunately, will not be the final episode of the season. The final episode will be
finished without loopers. My next series could very well be postponed or even cancelled. Yes, I’m scared. I’m scared of contracting the COVID-19 strain of novel
coronavirus that is currently moving its way around the world. And while I honor my moral responsibility to social distancing, I’m also scared what the lack of work will mean.
That I, and others like me, won’t qualify for health care benefits or pension credits, that our families will be left vulnerable in the most basic ways in this most serious of times,and the effect of the choices made during this time will negatively impact loopers, possibly for years to come. See, loopers don’t get paid time off. We don’t get sick leave. While we are grateful for the health and pension benefits we earn through SAG, we only get those benefits and only get paid when we work. In that way, we survive like any other worker in our country’s gig economy. Without any consistent commitment from the studios that produce the movies and TV shows we all love so much, loopers are among those below the line workers that are the first to be cut when a production budget is tight.
Before any of us had even heard of COVID-19, Group ADR had been faced with challenges: fewer TV episodes running for fewer seasons, drastic residuals reduction
thanks to streaming services, shrinking group sizes due to more technological advances and the use of sampled sound. If production companies employ new technologies to
finish shows without us in the wake of this current crisis, they could put us all out of business.
Don’t let this happen.
I implore creators of the films and TV shows we love dearly to recognize the value of having real actors respond to real moments on screen even when those actors are in the background.
I implore you to use new tech with an eye toward including us. Most of us have microphones and other necessary equipment at home, or we could acquire it easily. Patch us in! Let us continue the work! Let us help tell the stories that we so passionately love to help tell.
Artists help us stay connected to each other and cajole us into honoring the human condition. Loopers are artists, too. Let’s use this moment to reinvent how we do the work we do in a way that unites rather than excludes anyone.
And if we can do this for ourselves first, perhaps others will follow.
Co-director of “P.S Please Burn This Letter”
I’ve been working on an indie documentary feature film called “P.S. Burn This Letter Please” for the past five years as the film’s co-director and producer.
The story was inspired by a box of letters some friends of mine discovered in a storage unit. The letters were written by a group of New York City drag queens in the 1950s and are this fascinating window into LGBTQ culture at a time when drag was illegal and much of gay nightlife was run by the mafia.
We were scheduled to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April and we were very excited to be screening the film in the same neighborhood where much of this history took place, and, more importantly, to have several of the film’s nine subjects attend – all pre-Stonewall era drag queens, now in their 80s and 90s.
It’s been a long journey and an absolute labor of love and to get this far, then to get the news that Tribeca is canceled is a devastating blow.
For us, it’s always been very important that our subjects, these remarkable unsung heroes of LGBTQ history, have their moment to shine. We were looking forward to this as a family and now it’s uncertain when and if we’ll have another festival opportunity.
The health of our subjects and our team is paramount, but the life of the film is also vital and now hangs in the balance. It’s still unclear when and if film festivals will resume this year, which is hard on all indie filmmakers who scrape and sacrifice to make art and tell stories we’re passionate about.
Without these festivals, it’s going to be a real challenge to get these stories out there – especially at a time when we desperately NEED to hear from artists and underdogs and those who don’t see themselves reflected in mainstream media.
Here are some of the places entertainment workers affected by coronoavirus and related shutdowns can get financial and medical help.
(Essays compiled by Jazz Tangcay, Jem Aswad, Manori Ravindran, Jenelle Riley, Danielle Turchiano, Mike Schneider, Shirley Halperin, and Marc Malkin)