BWW Blog: Showcasing the Day Broadway Went Dark
As a Senior Theatre Major at Texas Christian University, the spring break of my last semester was to be spent in NYC showcasing before dozens of industry professionals between three showcases and an evening at 54 Below. This is an experience I've looked forward to since freshman year, as I have seen three classes of prepared, talented upperclassmen make their way to NYC and come back with fresh vision, passion, and direction for their life after graduation. Little did I know that my trip would be marked by one of the biggest moments in Broadway history.
Tuesday, March 10th, 23 seniors and 3 members of the faculty/staff all loaded onto a plane bright and early to head from DFW to NYC. We had briefly discussed the virus that was starting to affect the globe, but most of us felt that with a bit of extra sanitation we needn't worry about it impacting our experience. After arriving safely, we settled in our hotels and immediately headed to the Growing Studio to begin our workshops that would fill those first two days in NYC.
During this time, we worked with four different professionals in depth, receiving individual feedback on everything from headshots/resumes, film acting scenes, legit theatre performance, and commercial audition work. Each casting director was passionate about their craft, authentic, and intentional in their time with each one of us. We all spent our breaks raving about how much we were learning, and how thankful we were to have a program that prepared us so well for the next steps of our lives.
On Thursday, March 12th, we began what would be one of the most memorable days of our lives. After completing a sound check at 54 Below and a space-through in Theatre Row, we all gathered at the Growing Studio once again to warm up for our closed showcase- where we would be performing each of our packages for 4 agents to receive immediate feedback. Excited and ready, I was the second package to perform. Everything went better than we hoped. We got very positive feedback, productive notes, and finished feeling confident and encouraged. Then everything changed.
The agents suddenly asked to take a break as soon as my set finished, and though it was very early in the showcase we all agreed. Immediately, each had their phone by their ear, speaking with urgency to whoever was on the other line. We knew something was wrong. I'll never forget the moment our event coordinator told us what was happening. "Broadway has gone dark," she said. "This hasn't happened since 9/11, and that was for only three days." All of us were speechless. None of us had imagined that the Covid-19 virus would be so great a concern for our nation.
After about ten minutes the agents all reconvened and continued our showcase as planned, but each of us were slightly stunned. They gave their full attention to the rest of our pieces, and for that we are still so grateful, as it would've been easy to be distracted with chaos breaking loose around them. My partner and I went on to Theatre Row to prep for our open showcases, curious what the rest of the weekend would look like. We spaced our pieces and discussed the situation with another of our professors, when she received a phone call. "Theatre Row is closing due to the virus. Our open showcases are cancelled," she disclosed to us.
Our hearts sank. The day we'd so been looking forward to vanished right before our eyes. We kept positive for each other, reminding ourselves how lucky we were to have done our workshops and our first showcase, and still have 54 Below to look forward to that evening. Then, another phone call came through.
"Strike that," our professor said excitedly. "We're moving to the Growing Studio. Get there ASAP." We gathered our belongings and quickly made our way back to where we had spent our afternoon. Looking around, my classmates were calling their parents assuring them we were safe and doing their best to explain what was going on around us. It was unreal. "How strange it feels to be alive for this," we kept saying to one another.
Our connections at the Growing Studio were our heroes that day. We performed both open showcases in one of their large studios. Unfortunately, of the 35 industry professionals that RSVP'd, only four attended as not wanting to risk infection (which we absolutely understood). However, more family and friends were able to come support us because of this, and by the end of the day all of us were simply grateful for the opportunity to perform!
That evening we proceeded with performing at 54 Below- an evening full of laughter and coming together between alumni, seniors, faculty, and friends. Despite the chaos, we all had hearts full of gratitude and spirits soaring high for making it through the crazy day.
The next morning, 54 Below announced that all cabaret performances were cancelled for the next month. Once again, we all realized just how fortunate we were. If anything was scheduled even a day later than it was, we would have been facing some major disappointments. I am so proud of my class for supporting one another in positivity through all the craziness, and am endlessly thankful to my professors and the professionals who pulled every string to make our day happen.
To the Seniors unable to showcase this year: My heart goes out you. I know the anticipation and hard work you've been pouring into this one moment. The world needs your artistry, so I implore you to take this time as a spring-board to chasing your dreams rather than a setback.
To the thousands of Artists impacted by this virus: I believe in you. I'm so sorry for everything that has happened and can't imagine the fear and uncertainty that you are experiencing. I've never known a population more deliberate, passionate, generous, and resilient than you. I believe that this time can be a moment of rest before we all come back more creative, innovative, and fearless than ever.
It truly feels so strange to be alive during this time. Covid-19 will be a major chapter in history books that we will be able to speak to first-hand. I encourage you to journal, process, call a friend, appreciate your family. Welcome this season as a time of rest and cultivation for creativity, thankfulness, and wonder. I believe whole heartedly that after this has passed the art that will erupt will be astonishing.