New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke about the eagerly awaited return of Broadway during a March 25 press conference, explaining that the city is committed to having Broadway theatre back up by the fall.
De Shields spoke about the ability of Broadway storytelling to "transform individual lives," while Leung stressed how artists will help "how we heal" from the pandemic as well as the racial wounds that have been elucidated during the past year.
Read the two actors' speeches below:
André De Shields
New York is on its way back. But it will not completely arrive until not only Broadway but all theatre across this great city has returned. Now we’ve been absent, but we haven’t been too far away. We’ve been doing our best to stay ready. As you said, the show must go on. Broadway may be experiencing this moratorium on its performances, but our personal shows have gone on. We’re ready. We’ve stayed in shape. Our voices are strong. All we need is a stage. And from what you shared with us just now, you're going to take care of that.
I want to go just a little bit further. Because what’s important about the return of the theatre are the stories that we love to share. That’s the power of our profession. Because we know through our storytelling we can transform individual lives. We can alter governments. We can be the change that we want to see in this world. And, Broadway is the cultural spine of this city that is so nice we had to name it twice.
One other thing which is important to us: There is no greater illustration of how a democracy works than the process of putting up theatre, the process of putting up a Broadway show, whether it’s a serious drama or a musical comedy. It takes an agreement among a community of people to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the greatest amount of time. We don’t just want to go back to our jobs; we want to go back to serving New York. Our discipline is evidence that we can exercise our inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" through entertainment, enlightenment, and every once in a while, the ecstasy of a Broadway show.
This pandemic has hit our industry particularly hard, and it’s affected so many of my friends and talented colleagues. And, as we continue to turn the corner on this pandemic, I know New York City is yearning for the lights to be back on Broadway. Which is why I’m really excited to be here today, and I’m so excited to hear from you, Mr. Mayor, about all the ways that we are going to be doing this safely. How we’re going to be protecting our performers, and our musicians and dancers and the workers backstage and in the pit but also our audience members.
I know that we all have a long way to go as a community, but I really do think that today is a really good first step in our healing. Last year gave us all a newfound appreciation and respect for our medical professionals who were there on the front lines healing us during the worst days of this pandemic. This pandemic has given us a newfound respect for the incredible scientists who are healing us from the future infections with vaccinations. And now I think it’s time for all of us to heal from the trauma of what's happened to us as a city and as a country and as a world, and that is where artists come in.
We help heal the soul, and we help unpack all of the trauma from the last year, not just from the pandemic, but also with the racial and social wounds that have come up because of the pandemic, which have been felt very acutely by my AAPI community in recent days. Artists will be essential in how we heal from this and understand the world and each other better so that we are stronger and better equipped to deal with other challenges that come our way together.