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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Richard Rodgers Theatre Bar Manager - Michael Anthony
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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Richard Rodgers Theatre Bar Manager - Michael Anthony

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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Richard Rodgers Theatre Bar Manager - Michael Anthony

Due to the global health emergency, Broadway theaters have found their bright lights dimmed and their houses dark for the first time in history. As the world works together to stop the spread of COVID-19, the theater industry has been put on hold indefinitely - theaters around the world have closed their doors in compliance with social distancing rules, and Broadway has been shut down in full since March 13. The Broadway shutdown has impacted the lives of all who work in theater industry, who are now facing uncertain and unprecedented circumstances.

In our Behind the Curtain interview series, we are speaking with Broadway musicians, stage managers, ushers, bartenders, and more, talking about how they are handling the current circumstances, and discussing the impact that the shutdown has had on the Broadway community.

Today, our Behind the Curtain interview is with Michael Anthony, the bar manager for the Richard Rodgers Theatre.


What is your job title? Tell me a little bit about what you do within the theater industry and how long you've been doing it for.

I am the bar manager for the Richard Rodgers Theatre, home to Hamilton on Broadway. I began working as a bartender for Sandbar Concessions (which services the nine Nederlander Theaters) in 2006, thinking it'd be my day job for a year or so, just until I made it!

What has communication been like since the shutdown with the people you were working with? Have you continued to maintain contact with them?

Yes, the management level of our company has remained in fairly frequent touch, and our staff has used our company Facebook group as a way to stay connected and share information.

How do you feel that people in the theater community have come together during this time?

You cannot put out the creative spark, and that has never been more clear. Those within the theater community began to share their talents in online formats almost immediately. If there is anything this situation has starkly shown us, it is that we are more deeply connected than we typically realize, and that we need that connection to remain happy and healthy. Those within the arts are particularly sensitive to these things, and it has been beautiful watching them do all they can to lift us up during this difficult time.

What ways have you found to best deal with the current circumstances?

Besides my job as a bar manager, I'm also an actor. So, the only time I have "off" is when I leave to do a show. Therefore, since undergrad, I haven't had any real downtime. I've been using this time to get to things I've been meaning to for quite a while (like finally unpack the boxes from when I moved into my house - three years ago). Beyond that, I'm also writing a book about my experiences at Hamilton, and have really focused on that over these weeks. The best way for me to deal with the current circumstances has been to remain busy, and use the book and a film project I'm editing as creative outlets.

How do you think this will change the world of theater going forward?

First, I think it is going to be a reminder of how powerful an experience it is to sit in a theater, with a thousand strangers, and cry and laugh and learn together, and be strangers no more. I remember reading about a study done a few years ago where they measured heart rates and electrodermal activity of theatergoers, and found that when people experience a live performance together, their hearts synchronize so that they beat in time with each other. How FREAKIN' BEAUTIFUL is that? I mean, that's got to mean something important. It's so easy to take things for granted, but the next time we are all together, hearts beating in time, I think we'll appreciate it even more fully.

On a practical level, it seems it will be difficult for things to get back to normal until there is a vaccine. Given the financial structure of theater, and profit margins and rents and insurance and things my right-sided brain doesn't grasp, social distancing doesn't work easily for Broadway. Most Broadway shows simply can't afford to run at the sort of capacity they would need to with proper physical distancing. Luckily, people much, much smarter than me are on the case, and I'm hopeful that human ingenuity and our science will eventually save the day.

Do you have anything else you would like to share?

We're going to get through this thing. And I truly believe we will come out the other side having grown in some profound ways, spiritually speaking, for lack of better words. I look so, so forward to seeing you at Hamilton, and, until then, stay healthy, happy, and secure in the knowledge that we are in this together, temporarily separated or not.


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From This Author Chloe Rabinowitz