When Everyone Hits the Pause Button

by Cynthia Wands

Opening Night of “ALL THE WAY” at the Neil Simon Theater, 2014

Occasionally I’ll get pictures as “Memories” on Facebook (I know, I know) that will make me pause and remember places and performances that were part of our pre-pandemic history.

When I look at these images:

I’m shocked to see so many people crowded together in an audience. No one is wearing a mask.

There are actors singing onstage with their mouths open wide right next to another actor who is also singing with their mouth open wide.

At a long ago party, there are wine bottles and glasses scattered across a table where anyone could just pick them up. I mean anyone could touch anything.

I don’t remember so many hugs, and embraces, and funny elbow nudging moments with the people I love.

So there’s that pause button. I know it may or may not come back that way.

In the meantime, I’m reading articles about the cultural cost of this pandemic to our industry. Specifically, The Fear of Jerks.

The New York Times May 27 2020 Polls Show One Hurdle to Reopening Broadway: Fear of Jerks

And I’m reading stories of those performers, like all those performers in all the shows, that were nipped in the bud by the pandemic. The pictures in this story really got to me.

The New York Times: The Universe Hits Pause, The Ripple Effects of Broadway’s Shutdown

But I’m also remembering what it was like to be in an audience, alive with energy that creates a cathartic performance.  I found this YouTube video of Patti LaBelle singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from CAROUSEL. And, yes, it is over the top, way over the top, and it could only happen in a theatre with an audience that was unafraid of being together.

You’ll Never Walk Alone – sung by Patti LaBelle at the Apollo in 1985

So. Yes. I’m looking forward to “live” theatre again.  When it’s safe. When it’s fearless. When we can be together.

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