Arf! Hurricane Sandy Howls Into NYC; Mass Transit Dormant, Broadway Closes Doors Monday and Tuesday
By Kenneth Jones
Hurricane Sandy's trajectory into the mid-Atlantic coast, lashing New Jersey and New York Oct. 28-30, prompted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to order a mass transit shutdown that began 7 PM Sunday. Broadway producers cancelled Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday shows. The Tuesday Broadway shutdown was annnounced by The Broadway League at 5:15 PM Monday.
Subways and buses were pulled from service Sunday at 7 PM and 9 PM, respectively. A restoration time is yet to be determined. (For more, visit mta.info). As such, theatregoers and the people who put on shows will have limited ways to get to their Broadway and Off-Broadway destinations during the storm, which is expected to bring 3-6 inches of rain and winds gusts of up to 80 miles per hour. A powerful storm surge is thought to be the most probable destructive force of the weather emergency, though there is fear of wide power outages in the region.
In addition to performances being cancelled, rehearsals, benefits, readings and other theatre events on Monday and Tuesday are also negatively impacted. Cancellations of events in states neighboring New York are also expected Oct. 29-30. Fortunately for the theatre community, Monday is traditionally a day off for most theatrical events.
On Sunday afternoon, The Broadway League, the trade organization of Broadway theatres and producers announced, "As a result of the suspension of public transportation by government authorities in preparation for the incoming storm, all Broadway performances in NYC on Sunday evening, Oct. 28 and Monday evening, Oct. 29 are canceled. All Sunday matinees are playing as scheduled." At 5:15 PM Monday, the League announced that Tuesday — when most of Broadway is alive and glowing — will be dark. Visit thebroadwayleague.com for updates.
At a noontime Sunday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg urged residents to stay indoors on Monday, when the worst of the weather will hit. Here's a link to the city's official updates. On Sunday, the city also ordered mandatory evacuations for residents and businesses in low-lying coastal areas in New York City, including slices of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. This generally does not affect theatres, though some theatre personnel live in these areas.
Among the 375,000 people ordered out of those flood zones are Tony Award-nominated actor Stephen Kunken, his wife director Jenn Thompson and their daughter Naomi, who live in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The family told Playbill.com that they removed all lightweight objects from their patio and bought sandbags for placement around their doors and windows. Their apartment is on the ground floor, within a mile of the waterfront. The Kunken-Thompson family has retreated with their pets deeper into Brooklyn to stay with actor friends Mark Lotito (Jersey Boys) and Valerie Wright (Elf) and their kids.
If you held Broadway or Off-Broadway theatre tickets for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights, check with point of purchase for refunds or exchanges (or to see if non-Broadway shows will go on).
In general, producers offer ticket exchanges for future performances, based on availability. Refunds are also usually offered.
This weather event is an echo of Hurricane Irene in 2011, but forecasters indicate Sandy will have a much bigger bite. Irene blew into upstate New York and New England, causing serious flooding north of New York City — and damage to at least one theatre, Vermont's Weston Playhouse, which was able to rebuild and rebound. Read the 2011 story here.
Hurricane Sandy is expected to spin and stall over upstate New York, Pennsylvania and New England in the coming days, offering a serious challenge to communities there. By late Tuesday, Oct. 30, New York City will start to be in the clear, officials say, though heavy winds will slap the area all week.
Check Playbill.com for updates about how the theatre community is being affected by this serious storm.
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