By: Melissa Fishman | Writer
One of Broadway’s most famous fans, none other than former First Lady Hillary Clinton, sat down with The New York Times Thursday night for a new virtual seminar called Offstage: How I Miss Broadway. The Great White Way, regarded as the mecca for thespians and theater-goers alike, has seen many trials and tribulations, now adding the COVID-19 pandemic to that list.
The YouTube Live event was hosted by Times reporter Michael Paulson, joined by some other notable guests, to revisit what has been missed during the months of the shutdown, and what could be the future of theater going forward.
In the interview, Hillary Clinton re-lived her humble beginnings with theater, citing the smash-hit “Hair” as one of the first she ever saw on Broadway. In the time since her failed presidential run in 2016, she has found solace in attending both on and off-Broadway productions in order to get in touch with her roots. When asked about her sentiments for Broadway she replied that theater, “is a necessity to feed the human spirit,” due to the raw and uplifting nature that a show can take on. As for her future prospects of attending the theater, Mrs. Clinton is wary of returning too soon but remains hopeful for the time when we can all attend in a carefree manner.
Michael Paulson also invited Neil Patrick Harris, Audra McDonald, Jessie Mueller, and Danielle Brooks, all of whom are well-known actors and actresses, to discuss the future of Broadway. Each of these performers agreed that what they missed most of all since the shutdown was the connection between themselves and the audience when they were on stage. It is hard to imagine a world in which audiences could be socially distant by leaving vacant seats, connecting with fewer people.
While mask wearing will undoubtedly be expected when Broadway reopens sometime next year, it is hard to say what other protocols will be put in place. Actress Audra McDonald voiced her opinion about stage-dooring, greeting actors backstage after a show. She said that it might be some time before people will be able to do that again. And that is something that many theater devotees have enjoyed doing in the past, creating a very intimate connection with the stars. Likewise, performing intimate scenes on stage might also pose a risk and therefore solutions will be left to science, as actress Jessie Mueller said.
For now, it remains unclear what will come of Broadway, but all hope is not lost as Neil Patrick Harris assures, “the theatre community will come back because we must come back.”