Listen: How Off Broadway Is Coping With Shutdowns From Coronavirus

Gordon Cox
·3-min read

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It’s not just Broadway that’s been affected by New York City’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Off Broadway productions went dark too, cutting short the already limited runs of plays and musicals at venues all over the city.

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One of those plays is “Sanctuary City,” the latest by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok (“Cost of Living,” “Ironbound,” “Queens”). Directed by Rebecca Frecknall (“Summer and Smoke“), the world premiere production at New York Theatre Workshop had played barely a week of previews before it went dark. It’s a situation that typifies the disruptions and issues faced by theaters all across New York and around the country.

Speaking on the latest episode of Variety’s theater podcast, Stagecraft, Majok said she’s hoping the Workshop’s production of “Sanctuary City” will be seen — one way or the other. As soon as the shutdown hit, she said, “We started trying to come up with a plan for how we could salvage the show in some way. Our set is still up in the theater, so if all things work out soon, we’ll just go right back into the theater.” The show’s collaborators also recorded a video of it: “The idea was to have it be archival, and as a backup. … In case nobody was able to bring [the show] back up for some reason, then maybe we would release it.”

Majok went on to explain why the process of writing and rehearsing “Sanctuary City” had been unusually satisfying for her, and added that while her theater projects are on hold for now, she’s busying herself by working on the TV adaptation of her play “Queens” for HBO.

Also on the new episode of Stagecraft, Jeremy Blocker, the managing director at New York Theatre Workshop, offered a view of the shutdown from the business side of show business.

“Within the span of a couple of weeks, we went from looking at a balanced budget to looking at a seven-figure deficit, and that’s scary for a little Off Broadway theater company,” Blocker said.

He added, “I think the top concern for anybody in my job is the people that we’re responsible for, and making sure that they — the artists, the technicians, the front of house staff, the full time staff — that they are as well taken care of through this whole thing as they possibly can be. And then I think the second priority, which is high up there, is how do we continue to connect with audiences.”

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to Stagecraft on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere that finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

(Pictured above: “Sanctuary City”)

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