UPDATED: After Hurricane Sandy, Broadway Is Back On Its Feet Nov. 1; Downtown Stages Remain Challenged

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01 Nov 2012

The front door of the Public Theater Thursday morning
Photo by Matthew Blank

The downtown blackout Monday-Thursday knocked out performances by major resident not-for-profit theatres in the city. In recent weeks, the downtown boards had been alive with the world premiere of Douglas McGrath's Checkers, at the Vineyard Theatre; a revival of Chekhov's Ivanov, starring Ethan Hawke at Classic Stage Company; the New York premiere of the Michael John LaChiusa-Sybille Pearson musical Giant, at The Public Theater; MCC Theater's world premiere of Stephen Belber's Don't Go Gentle, at the Lucille Lortel; and Atlantic Theater Company's well-reviewed Harper Regan, among many other performing-arts works. All were dark Monday-Wednesday.

As of early Nov. 1, downtown Manhattan was still struggling with the power outage. It is not known when power will be restored, though it was thought to be within "days," according to officials, which is no comfort for residents who have hunkered down in their shadowy apartments since Monday. Some people frantically sought car service to get uptown — or off the island of Manhattan — to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.

Consult websites of your favorite downtown shows or producing organizations to check performance status.

Off-Broadway shows on or north of 42nd Street, like Disgraced at Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater, Vanya and Sonia… at the Mitzi Newhouse and Roundabout Theatre Company's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, at the Laura Pels, returned on Wednesday, Oct. 31, as did plays along 42nd Street at such venues as Playwrights Horizons, where The Whale is making its New York premiere, and the Pershing Square Signature Center, home of Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company producer of Golden Child and The Piano Lesson.

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On Sunday afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the mass transit shutdown, which began 7 PM that night with subways, followed by buses at 9 PM. As a result of the mayor's edict, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28, Broadway producers cancelled Sunday night and Monday night shows.

Most Broadway theatres, as readers of Playbill know, are located between 42nd and 54th Streets. When subways are shut down, theatregoers and the people who put on shows have limited ways to get to their Broadway and Off-Broadway destinations.

The area expected 3-6 inches of rain (and got about an inch) and wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour (and got just that on Monday). A powerful seawater storm surge was the most destructive force of the weather emergency. Flooded subway tunnels are in the process of being pumped out.

The Tuesday cancellations represent an untold economic blow to Broadway; Monday is the theatre's traditional dark night, when only a handful of Broadway shows play, so the losses were less widespread and severe.

At a noontime Sunday press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents to stay indoors on Monday, when the worst of the weather was to 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 (Enron), his wife director Jenn Thompson (a co-artistic director of TACT/The Actors Company Theatre) 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 placed sandbags around their doors and windows. Their apartment is on the ground floor, within a mile of the New York waterfront, where the Hudson meets the East River and New York Harbor. The Kunken-Thompson family retreated with their pets deeper into Brooklyn to stay with actor friends Mark Lotito (Jersey Boys) and Valerie Wright (Elf) and their kids. The Kunken-Thompsons later learned that their home suffered serious flood damage.

This weather event is an echo of Hurricane Irene in 2011, but forecasters indicated early that Sandy would 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.

Tropical Storm Sandy headed over upstate New York, Pennsylvania and New England, offering harsh weather to communities there. By late Tuesday, Oct. 30, New York City started to be in the clear, weather-wise.

Read the Playbill.com feature about how theatre people weathered the storm — with friends, family, pets, vino, DVDs, books and carbohydrates.



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