As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are coping with the self-isolation on a daily basis, both physically and creatively.
The series continues with theatre couple Bradley and Danielle King. Bradley King is a two-time Tony winner for Best Lighting Design of a Musical for Hadestown and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. His other Broadway credits include Flying Over Sunset, Bernhardt/Hamlet, Picnic, The American Plan, Xanadu, and Lovemusik. Danielle King is the managing producer of The Tank, the non-profit arts presenter and producer on West 36th Street. She also has supported the development and production of new plays at The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Soho Rep, and Actors Theatre of Louisville, and for Clubbed Thumb, Siti Company, 13P, P73, and the TEAM.
What is your typical day like now?
Danielle is still leading the Tank (albeit from home), and Brad's now a full-time kindergarten/preschool teacher to our five-year-old (Eme) and two-and-a-half-year-old (Rosie). We all have breakfast/coffee together (pancakes and bagels), and then Danielle disappears into The Tank's "office" (our bedroom). Eme does her assigned schoolwork from PS116, and Rosie's preschool has a daily Zoom circle time at 10 AM that we try and join. The kiddos also love to crash Danielle's work sessions, especially if she's in the middle of a Zoom call or podcast recording. Rosie naps in the afternoon, and Eme and Brad have been playing board games, Memory, Go Fish, and doing a lot of art projects during the quiet time (that's also when Brad will try and cram in a couple emails if Eme decides she wants quiet reading time). The cocktail shaker comes out at 5 PM. We are running dangerously low on Luxardo Cherries for the Manhattans.
These days are hard—no question about it—and we do our best to acknowledge when one of us is feeling really down so we can support each other.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Billions—pure escapist drama and a fun Where's Waldo of NYC exteriors and Off-Broadway actors! Brad ordered a book from Bookshop.org (great way to support your local indie store!) called How to Cheat at Everything that walks you through the history of most of the con games and hustles on the street—that's been fascinating. Fridays and Saturdays are family movie night, so we're working through the Pixar and Disney canon. Oh, and we cannot go a day without listening to the Frozen II soundtrack, which has become a touchstone for Danielle. (Haven't we all felt like Olaf insisting that this time of unfathomable loss and global crisis will all make sense "When I Am Older"?)
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
Everyone is experiencing and coping (or not coping) with this differently, but here is what has helped us: connecting. We love checking in with friends we haven't heard from in a while. For Brad's birthday, we convened about 20 people on Zoom from across the country—this never would have happened if everyone was in tech. These days are hard—no question about it—and we do our best to acknowledge when one of us is feeling really down so we can support each other. Inevitably, we have turned to art to get us through. Sing-a-longs, dancing, coloring, Lego-building, yoga. These are things we did before and now we turn to them for even a glimmer of the daily life we've put on pause. (Also, the 7 PM cheer is the highlight of our day, and even in our not-so-residential neighborhood everyone has been participating.) And then, back to Frozen II, when the big picture gets too overwhelming, we focus on doing "The Next Right Thing." Right after belting "Show Yourself" at the top of our lungs.
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
Brad wants to preface this answer by saying it is totally OK and normal if they aren't. This is a crisis, and we should be focusing on keeping ourselves healthy, physically and mentally. And that's it. Honestly, I'm (Brad) devoting the bulk of my time to family care. And yet, though this isn't a generative time for many, it doesn't mean we all don't need some creative expression and release. Eme tells the best jokes (she's got innate timing). Brad has joined the ranks of those nurturing (so far unsuccessfully) sourdough starter. Danielle zens out with puzzles. Who knows what your brain and body are cooking up during this time to manifest in your creative practice later on when you are ready.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Danielle is working with Artistic Director Meghan Finn and the Tank board and staff to sustain the organization through this crisis so that emerging artists will have a space to return to. In the meantime, we've started and are ramping up CyberTank, an online arts gathering platform for Tank artists to connect and share work. And, The Tank is gearing up for its Virtual Gala on May 19—think live cook-a-long meets live "Best of The Tank" performances meets telethon. Tickets start at $30—go to TankGala2020.org for more details and join us from your couch! Brad was mid-design process on both Lempicka at La Jolla Playhouse and the upcoming Hadestown tour, both of which continue to take shape. He's also an executive board member of USA829, the theatrical designers' union, so they're working on a lot of outreach in terms of financial assistance for members, lobbying for increased relief measures for entertainment workers, and distributing information on how to get help. (That work has been extremely gratifying and has been eating up the 1 percent of his time not caring for the kiddos.)