Stay at Home

I Know Things Now: Broadway in Hindsight

04.01.20

BY: GIANFRANCO LENTINI

It’s been almost three weeks now since Broadway went dark on Thursday, March 12, 2020 due to COVID-19. We’ve all had our ways of coping. Some of us — hypothetically me — may have taken to: lip-syncing the entirety of SIX in the shower daily; explaining to the potted plants why *seeing* Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is absolutely a different experience than *reading* it; and perfecting an argument on why the Warner Bros. 2004 movie remake of The Phantom of the Opera was actually, in your opinion, good.

But at the core of it all, no matter what I may do to pass the time, there’s no mistaking it… I miss my Broadway community. I miss my thespian family. And yes, I do miss 42nd Street.

Amidst all the disheartening news and overwhelming newsfeeds, a gift that this quarantine has afforded us is the ability and time to be retrospective as well as introspective. Time to think back on all our theatre-going experiences (the great and the not-so-great) and reflect on what it is about this industry that makes it home. And with all this newfound hindsight, I can’t help but hear Little Red on repeat in my head, “I Know Things Now.”

So, I personally want to acknowledge some things that I used to allow annoy me in the theatre, but in retrospect defined my love of Broadway.

Instagram, @companybway.

Dear Ushers,

You work hard damn hard. Working front of house is not a walk in the park. One can only fathom the number of questions you get asked in the 45 minutes between opening house and curtain up.

Dealing with managing a zoo under the guise of theatre – patrons taking you for granted, not listening to your instructions, asking you for an answer you just gave. You’re there to do your job, but sometimes you’re treated as if you’re invisible. And I’ll admit to being someone who has walked past thinking I knew where my seat was only to turn back around and ask for help…

That behavior can be exhausting to receive.

So next time you need to take a second before seating me, or you just need to get away with an eye roll because the person ahead treated you rudely, you’ve got a friend in me.

Instagram, @thebackstageblonde.

Dear Tiny Seats,

After all this Olympic training in social distancing, I welcome the ability to sit too close to someone who is just as eager to watch theatre as I am. The armrests are stiff, and the cushions might sometimes rub the wrong way, but I’d be daft if I didn’t admit some of my closest friends started as complete strangers sitting next to me.

And if it wasn’t for those same people keeping me sane over FaceTime and Zoom calls right now, this quarantine would be a very different experience.

Dear Bathroom Lines,

I get it. People are human. They need to go. If a longer line means that many more hands are getting washed, then so be it.

And just to say it one more time – Folks, wash your hands.

Dear Drink Prices,

Well… actually, you’re still expensive.

But I think we’ll all need a stiff one after this, so I’ll give you a pass.

Instagram, @bwaycontent.

Dear Stage Door Crowd,

At times, it’s madness maneuvering around you while exiting a theatre. But you deserve so much more credit. Because truly, where would this industry be without the fans who love this community as much as you do? I think the only people who have you matched on dedication to your job is the Postal Service.

Those of you who gather to say thank you and celebrate at the stage door – you are students getting the education of a lifetime, you are friends and family bursting at the seams with pride, or just maybe, you are the future performers of Broadway.

Whoever you are, I understand this: You are the voice that walks away from a performance and tells the world what you just experienced. You are love, and Broadway loves you.

With so much respect, keep on stage-dooring.

Instagram, @schmackarys.

Dear Post-Show Line at Schmackary’s,

Alright, I’ll say it… I get antsy when I can’t immediately get my hands on a classic chocolate chip cookie. Whatever is in those cookies… it’s working. But now I realize, the line that gathers down 45th Street is a post-show celebration in itself.

You don’t have to listen too closely to hear families ecstatically swapping notes on the shows they’ve just seen. Or couples on a date night recalling the lines that’ll keep them smiling all the way home. Or just the 4-year-old looking jubilantly at his new Elsa doll.

Frankly, some of the highest praises, rapturous reviews, and happiest moments have been experienced and shared while waiting in line for a sch’mores cookies. Someone alert Brantley!

…so, I think you will all know where to find me when we’re allowed out of our apartments again.

Dear Person Reading This,

Oh, no, you don’t annoy me! Rather, I want to say this –

What we’re currently facing is hard. For some out there, the hardest thing they’ve ever experienced. And for those who look to Broadway as a constant beacon of love, magic, and light, the darkening of the marquees can be a frightful thing. But never forget this: You have a community that will always persist. No matter if the theatres are dark and the seats are folded. No matter if the stage door is closed and the streets are empty. Your passion keeps the zeitgeist of Broadway rolling merrily along.

The first thing any of us are taught when we give our lives to this business is that the show must go on. It must, and it will.

We are strong. We are resilient. We are a home that is built on acceptance and perseverance that has been forged by over a century of thespian wisdom, and *cue Elphaba* nothing can bring us down.

Whether you’re quarantined in New York City or social distancing in the middle of Texas, put on your favorite musical, put on the craziest costume you can find in your closet, and show this virus that it’s no match for you, Dancing Queen.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Love,

Gianfranco

p.s. Let’s all meet up for cookies when this is over.

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