This past year may have been a tough one for the arts—particularly with threats to the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities—but it was also a year the theatre community banded together to proclaim our necessity, foster empathy, and advocate for human rights and valuable causes through expression. 2017 was a year of accomplishments for women, prioritization of art above business, an embrace of diversity, and more. Here, we look back at 8 moments in theatre that made us proud and #grateful we are theatrelovers:
1. Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley Create the Concert for America series
Playbill columnist, Sirius XM radio host, and musical director Seth Rudetsky and his husband, James Wesley, founded a series of concerts to support multiple organizations that protect the civil and human rights of all Americans. On January 20, the inaugural Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out! bowed at New York City’s Town Hall with performances and appearances by stars from theatre, film, television, and politics. Subsequently, each month Rudetsky travels to a new U.S. city to put on a show (that’s also livestreamed on the organization’s Facebook page), raise money, and encourage Americans to be more active citizens.
2. Women Make Broadway History
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel made her Broadway debut at the age of 65 with Indecent. Her director, Rebecca Taichman, also made her Broadway debut with the show, and won the Tony for Best Direction of a Play for her astounding work—making her the sixth woman to win a Tony for directing a play. Lynn Nottage, a protégé and now-peer of Vogel, also made her Broadway debut with Sweat, which won the writer her second Pulitzer Prize, making her the first female playwright to win two.
3. Daryl Roth Tears Up the Indecent Closing Notice!
Speaking of Indecent and powerhouse women in the theatre, lead producer (and 2017 Theater Hall of Fame inductee) Daryl Roth decided to revoke the closing notice of Paula Vogel’s Tony-nominated play—an unprecedented move. “I felt it hadn’t lived its life,” Roth told Playbill in this exclusive interview. “I’m going to take the risk. I thought to myself: ‘Even if I can’t fill the house for six weeks, I’m going to give it my best shot.’”
4. Special Concert Events Commemorate Lesser-Known Musicals
This past year, Feinstein’s/54 Below committed to reviving rarely seen musicals in one-night-only concerts including Nick and Nora, Two by Two, Bring Back Birdie, Merrily We Roll Along, Broadway Bound, the upcoming Woman of the Year (November 29), and more. The concerts continue to remind us of our musical theatre history.
5. The Ghostlight Project Kicks Off Community Service Via Theatres Nationwide
The summertime initiative kicked off May 1 with an event from The Ghostlight Project and New York City’s Signature Theatre. The campaign encouraged theatres and theatre-makers across the U.S. to meet their neighbors and make connections to their communities through acts of volunteerism. Ghostlight urged: “1. Pick an organization or two or three. 2. Connect with them; find out if they’re interested in collaborating, and how you can best serve them.”
6. Waitress Launches a Social Movement With the #WaitressPieChallenge
See Waitress Reveal Their New Costumes for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
To raise awareness and funds for Susan G. Komen Greater NYC and breast cancer research, Broadway’s Waitress launched the #WaitressPieChallenge, asking participants to donate money and toss a pie in their face (similar to the #IceBucketChallenge). The musical also changed its signature blue uniforms to pink for October in solidarity with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
7. Lin-Manuel Miranda Advocates for Puerto Rico
The Hamilton and In The Heights creator called for help for his homeland after Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He started #porPR to urge for donations for the Hispanic Federation, wrote and recorded the original single “Almost Like Praying” with Latin music royalty to raise money, visited the island, and even announced a 2019 production of Hamilton in which he will reprise his title role.
8. The Broadway League Moves Towards Inclusivity
Earlier this month, The Broadway League announced that, beginning in 2018, Broadway’s houses will offer new technology to consistently serve patrons who are deaf or have hearing or vision loss. With On Demand closed captioning and audio description, Broadway takes another step in expanding audiences.