Since day one of lockdowns, Broadway leaders went all-in on complying with Covid tyranny. Now, as shows shutter and suffer record-breaking losses during the omicron wave, the leftist cultural rulers of the Big Apple are reaping what they sowed. The struggles Broadway brought upon itself prove that mass compliance, wokeness, and contempt for workers and patrons come at a cost.
Broadway used to be synonymous with resilience. The expression “The show must go on” has historical precedence: Broadway remained open during the 1918 flu pandemic, both World Wars, and only kept the curtains closed for two days after 9/11. Broadway shows have long celebrated civil disobedience against government mandates, from burning draft cards in “Hair” to marching against segregation in “Hairspray.”
But in March 2020, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued their stay-at-home mandates and industry shutdowns, Broadway fell right in line, setting in stone a new culture of compliance.
More Than 500 Days to Slow the Spread
Rather than challenge these orders, theaters rushed to slam their doors shut and cash in on insurance policies from the government-mandated closure. On March 12, 2020, the Broadway League, which represents producers, issued a press release stating that theaters would close for just roughly 30 days, “in support of the health and well-being of the theatregoing public, as well as those who work in the theatre industry.”
Broadway didn’t open its doors again for 510 days.
Rather than challenge politicians and the Broadway League when these swift and sweeping orders were issued, leading Broadway performers chose to comply rather than disobey. This is in contrast with the Covid restriction rebellion the country saw across other industries.
For example, Dallas-based salon owner Shelley Luther was sentenced to seven days in jail for refusing to shutter her business and let her employees go hungry. New Jersey gym owners broke into their own business to reopen and defy government stay-at-home orders, racking up more than $1 million in fines for standing on principle (they have resisted paying).
Meanwhile, instead of defying lockdown orders, Broadway stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda kicked off fundraisers to help those put out of work. While Covid charity is a noble endeavor, it did nothing to challenge the power structures that had put these workers out of a job in the first place.
Once the fundraising buzz waned, prominent stars used their public platforms to regurgitate establishment-approved talking points for moving past lockdowns, like “mask up,” “stay home,” and “vote for Biden.” However, Broadway’s doors remained shut, even while other industries started re-opening.
Artists Canceled for Pushing Back
Even the slightest dissent from Covid groupthink led to calls for artists’ cancellation. For example, Tony-nominated actor and Covid-immunized Chad Kimball tweeted in November 2020 that he planned to “respectfully disobey” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders to ban church choir members from singing. Soon thereafter, it was not Inslee who faced swift and damning critique from artists for outlawing freedom of association, but Kimball for daring to partake in his worship and craft.
Despite the clarity that Kimball would still wear a mask while singing, a fellow Broadway actor accused him of being a religious hypocrite for failing to “take care of [his] fellow humans.” Another artist (who now serves as creative director for the Lincoln Project) scorned him as “intolerant” and “closed-minded.”
For all the praise of diversity in the arts, it appears Kimball’s employers drew the line at diversity of thought. In 2021, Kimball was not re-hired for the reopening of “Come From Away,” the show he was starring in prior to the shutdowns. Kimball is suing the producers for workplace discrimination.
After a staggered opening in August 2021, larger shows began to reopen in the fall. However, there were strings attached. The Broadway League announced in July 2021 that all actors must submit to vaccination in order to work, and those who questioned this demand were quickly ostracized.
For example, Broadway star Laura Osnes was deemed to have committed “career suicide” for choosing to step down from a performance in light of the vaccine requirement. The vaccines had not received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval at this time, and she wanted to wait for more available research before getting the jab, but this rationale was not enough to avoid condemnation from the alliance of big pharma and big entertainment.
The Industry Is Still Staggering
Actors were not the only ones subject to medical mandates upon Broadway’s reopening. Patrons are only allowed to return to the theater by showing vaccine cards and government-approved ID, flying in the face of the two leftist dogma: “my body, my choice” and “no human is illegal.”
On top of this hypocrisy, Broadway attendees are also subject to sweeping mask mandates, complete with enforcers holding “mask up” signs badgering attendees during the show (in spite of the Centers for Disease Control’s recent admission that cloth masks are basically useless). Furthermore, the Broadway League recently announced that, effective at the end of January 2022, children 5-11 must have proof of Pfizer’s vaccine to enter the theater.
Even after more than 500 days of government shutdowns, violations of bodily autonomy, and public shaming of their peers, the Broadway doyens didn’t deliver on the return to normalcy they promised. The New York Times has dubbed recent months “the Winter of Broadway’s Discontent.” Actors are still catching Covid, sales are slumping, and shows are still closing.
When the show does go on, only 62 percent of seats are filled. After forcing theater workers out of their jobs for nearly a year and a half, the Broadway League is now asking workers to take a 50 percent pay cut due to the reduced sales. This is in spite of Broadway receiving tens of millions of dollars in federal government grants to make up for lost revenue during the shutdowns.
Cuomo and de Blasio issued the shutdowns upon New York. The Broadway League complied with this authoritarian orthodoxy, while Broadway actors tacitly cheered being tread upon and silenced and shamed righteous opposition.
Now with shows floundering, actors out of work, and producers losing their life savings, what do they have to show for it besides a holy union between Joe Biden and the cast of “Hamilton“? Hopefully, this artistic disaster will set a precedent for thespians to feel emboldened to speak up and defy the next wave of Covid restrictions, and choose civil disobedience over leftist appeasement.