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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Noah Dunton - Front of House Staff Member at The Public Theater
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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Noah Dunton - Front of House Staff Member at The Public Theater

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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Noah Dunton - Front of House Staff Member at The Public Theater

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 Noah Dunton, Front of House staff member and emergency assistant at The Public Theater.

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 work as a Front of House staff member and emergency assistant at The Public Theater, and that's been my primary gig for two years this week! I primarily usher the five houses at The Public's downtown space and in the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, but I also work in the Delacorte's ticket office over the summer, and run show lotteries with my coworkers in the downtown space.

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

My department has been absolutely wonderful and communicative throughout this entire ordeal, and I've also kept in pretty frequent contact with my coworkers via social media, Zoom, and even over certain video game platforms (hello, Animal Crossing!). Whether we've been in touch to read a play that one of us has written, to have a virtual happy hour, or just to check in emotionally, my coworkers provide an incredible support system. I don't think I fully realized what an integral part of my lives these people are until I stopped seeing them every day, and I can't wait until we're back together in person, but I'm beyond grateful for their presence.

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

Theater is intrinsically a shared experience, but it's very easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated while pursuing a career in the arts, regardless of what your role in the field is. That said, this entire situation has not only thrown us all into the same boat, but it's presented us with a collective challenge to overcome. So, on a very surface level, I think we've come together emotionally - we're mourning our livelihoods, and digging in to find new ways to continue to create work. I have friends working on new plays with developmental readings over Zoom, and developing new pieces that are entirely audio-based. The innovation of young artists is thrilling. That said, I think there's also been a push to preserve and uplift the art form, and to celebrate it - the televised concerts, the new and publicly accessible archival footage, and the live-streamed concerts have brought so much joy to so many people. We're still finding ways to share stories and experiences, even from home.

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

I've found that a couple of things have been really helpful. First of all, establishing a routine but leaving room to break away from that when it's not feeling sustainable has been tremendously helpful. I've also tried to be really honest about my emotional state - none of this is easy, and that's okay! Sometimes, that's meant calling friends and watching TV together, or allowing myself to indulge in ways that I typically wouldn't; other times, it's meant making space to be alone if that's what's needed. At the core of it all, I've been working on dealing with this one day at a time and checking in with myself and the people around me as needed. Oh, and - therapy, therapy, therapy. Headway is an online service that helps you find providers in the New York Metro area who take your insurance, and teletherapy has been great so far.

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

I'm hopeful that this will broaden people's idea of what constitutes "theater", and I really hope we rally around the arts. I think it's going to take a minute for the industry to recover, but I'm confident that we'll bounce back. Artists are nothing if not resilient. Obviously, adjustments will have to be made during this interim when herd immunity is not a present factor. That may mean that rehearsals and audition processes are structured slightly differently than how they were pre-pandemic, or that we adjust physical spacing in houses. That said, I think some thrilling new work is going to stem from all of this. And, at the very least - I think gratitude will be ever present in these spaces where we get to create and share stories, even more so than before. I don't see myself taking any of this for granted again.

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