Rivers, who died Sept. 4 at the age of 81, earned a Best Actress Tony Award nomination for her 1994 play Sally Marr...and Her Escorts, which she co-wrote. She made her Broadway debut in Fun City in 1972 (a play she also co-wrote) and took over the role of Kate in the Broadway production of Neil Simon's Broadway Bound.
In addition to her stage work, Rivers was a fixture at Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, regularly seen in the audience and posing for photos with cast members backstage. Rivers also championed the work of many in the theatre community.
According to the Times, executives at the League determined that Rivers did not meet the criteria for Broadway's lights to be dimmed. "Under our criteria people need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway – people who made their careers here, or kept it up," the Broadway League's executive director Charlotte St. Martin told the Times in an interview.
St. Martin stated that while Rivers was supportive of the theatre community, hers was not a name that was synonymous with Broadway, adding that the decision not to dim the lights of theatre marquees in her memory was not intended as a slight.
The Times noted that in recent weeks the League dimmed Broadway's lights in memory of late actor-comedian Robin Williams, who appeared on Broadway only twice. Mr. Williams was an Academy Award recipient, but was not nominated for a Tony Award. Similarly, the League dimmed its lights in 2012 for "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, a Tony Award nominee for God of Carnage, who was best known for his work on screen. Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theatres, later tweeted that his theatres would dim the lights of their marquees Sept. 9 at 6:45 PM in Rivers' memory.
In memory of the legendary Joan Rivers, we will dim the lights of our Jujamcyn Theaters marquees, Tuesday at 6:45pm. pic.twitter.com/j07m1L5gaS
— Jordan Roth (@Jordan_Roth) September 9, 2014
Rivers' funeral, which was held Sept. 7, featured performances by Tony Award winners Audra McDonald and Hugh Jackman as well as the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, who sang the show tunes "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" and "Big Spender." Bernadette Peters, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Alan Cumming and Tommy Tune were among the theatre stars in attendance. In addition, the New York Police Department's Emerald Society played Kander and Ebb's "New York, New York" and the George M. Cohan classic "Give My Regards to Broadway."