Broadway opens its doors for first time in over a year

Yesterday, NY PopsUp, the statewide initiative designed to celebrate and reinvigorate the arts in New York, presented the very first performance inside a Broadway theater since New York’s venues were shuttered by the pandemic more than a year ago. This special event was part of the “pilot program” created by The Festival as a large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after this prolonged COVID-related shutdown.

Taking place at Broadway’s legendary St. James Theatre, a socially-distanced audience made up of ​primarily front line workers affiliated with The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS watched back-to-back performances, directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, by two of New York’s giants of the stage: three-time Tony Award® winner Nathan Lane and Tony Award winner Savion Glover.

To ensure the health of safety of all attendees and workers, NY PopsUp and the St. James Theatre worked closely with the New York State Department of Health, following all ​state health and safety protocols.

Mr. Lane performed Playbills, a new monologue by playwright Paul Rudnick about a man who has spent the last year cooped up in his studio apartment, laid off from his job and desperately missing his greatest passion: going to the theater. Yearning to be part of an audience again, to experience an event, he shares a true, near-miraculous story, which has given him hope for the city, the world, the TKTS booth and – at long last – a seat on the aisle.

Mr. Glover performed a special tap piece that channeled his personal experience of a life in the theater, allowing the audience to reflect on what Broadway was, what Broadway is, and what Broadway will be again, and reminding us of the sacred space that is the stage.

Both performances were live streamed on the festival’s Instagram feed: @NYPopsUp.

NY PopsUp is an unprecedented and expansive festival featuring hundreds of pop-up performances (many of which are free of charge and all open to the public) that intersect with the daily lives of New Yorkers, as announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. ​The series of events, intended to revitalize the spirit and well-being of New York citizens with the energy of live performance while jumpstarting New York’s live entertainment sector, is a collaborative private / public partnership developed by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development. The programming for NY PopsUp is curated by the interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur, in partnership with a hand-selected council of artistic advisors who represent the diversity of New York’s dynamic performing arts scene and artistic communities.

NY PopsUp launched on Saturday, February 20 and will run through Labor Day​, coinciding with the 20th Anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55. NY PopsUp is being coordinated in lock step with state public health officials and will strictly adhere to New York State Department of Health COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. NY PopsUp’s model for delivering safe performance experiences help​s provide a reopening roadmap for New York’s cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center, in the planning of their new outdoor performing arts complex, “Restart Stages.”  “Restart Stages,” boasting a total of 10 outdoor performance and rehearsal spaces, is set to open April 7.

Please note that, given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance. Please follow @NYPopsUp on Twitter and Instagram for the latest.

​Collectively, NY PopsUp, the Tribeca Film Festival, and The Festival at Little Island bring​s a total of more than ​1000 performances to New York State between February 20 and Labor Day, signaling an event unmatched in scale and unrivaled in scope.