October 6, 2022

As New York Reopens, It Looks for Culture to Lead the Way

Haley Gibbs, 25, an administrative aide who lives in Brooklyn, said she felt the city’s pulse returning as she waited to attend “Drunk Shakespeare,” an Off Off Broadway fixture that has resumed performances in Midtown.

“I feel like it’s our soul that’s been given back to us, in a way,” Gibbs said, “which is super dramatic, but it is kind of like that.”

But some of the greatest tests for the city’s cultural scene lie ahead.

Hunkering down — cutting staff, slashing programming — turned out to be a brutal but effective survival strategy. Arts workers faced record unemployment, and some have yet to return to work, but many businesses and organizations were able to slash expenses and wait until it was safe to reopen. Now that it’s time to start hiring and spending again, many cultural leaders are worried: Can they thrive with fewer tourists and commuters? How much will safety protocols cost? Will the donors who stepped up during the emergency stick around for a less glamorous period of rebuilding?

“Next year may prove to be our most financially challenging,” said Bernie Telsey, one of the three artistic directors at MCC Theater, an Off Broadway nonprofit. “In many ways, it’s like a start-up now — it’s not just turning the lights on. Everything is a little uncertain. It’s like starting all over again.”

The fall season is shaping up to be the big test. “Springsteen on Broadway” began last month, but the rest of Broadway has yet to resume: The first post-shutdown play, a drama about two existentially trapped Black men called “Pass Over,” is to start performances Aug. 4, while the first musicals are aiming for September, starting with “Hadestown” and “Waitress,” followed by war horses that include “The Lion King,” “Chicago,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/17/arts/music/new-york-performing-arts-reopening.html

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