NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio is launching a vaccination effort directed at theater workers and actors to help revive New York City’s theater industry, where stages have been dark for more than a year.
The initiative is aimed at allowing theaters to begin preparing for the fall theater season through rehearsals and set-building.
“We will move heaven and earth to bring Broadway back,” de Blasio said at a press conference Thursday morning.
What You Need To Know
- The city will create a special vaccine site, as well as pop-ups, for theater workers
- The goal of the initiative is to allow theaters to begin rehearsals and set-building, to prepare for the fall theater season
- Broadway is a major engine for tourism in New York City, driving business to hotels, restaurants and retail stores around the city
The city will set up a vaccination center with appointments held exclusively for theater workers in the theater district, and will have pop-up vaccination sites at Off Broadway theaters around the city. Other pop-up sites will be located near other theaters, de Blasio said.
City workers will also help manage crowds before and after shows in order to limit transmission of the virus.
De Blasio called on the state to offer clear guidance for theater workers on mask usage and personal protective equipment, as well as rules for checking audience members’ vaccination status and negative test requirements. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that spectators can return to baseball games and will be required to show proof of a recent negative test for the coronavirus or proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The initiative does not make all Broadway workers eligible for vaccination, a power that resides with the state. Currently, however, more than 80% of New York City adults are eligible to get vaccinated, including all adults aged 50 years and older and those with underlying health conditions.
The new vaccination initiative is part of de Blasio’s effort to revive New York City’s economy. Broadway employs about 100,000 people, and forms the bone of New York City’s massive tourism industry.
The theaters on Broadway also support countless Midtown businesses, including restaurants, hotels and retail stores, which have been deeply affected by the theaters’ closures.
The initiative will also allow theaters to rehire actors, stage managers, electricians, technicians, builders, facilities staff and other workers who have been furloughed or laid off through the pandemic.
“We’re ready. We’ve stayed in shape. Our voices are strong,” Andre de Shields, a legendary Broadway actor and director, said at the press conference. “All we need is a stage.”
Some Broadway theaters are already planning for special productions with limited runs and small audiences, beginning in April.
The Broadway League, the trade association for Broadway, had initially planned to continue theater closures through June of 2021, but has acknowledged that theater likely won’t return until after Labor Day.
Though the League was not involved in the vaccine initiative announcement, de Blasio said it reflects the questions the League has raised over the past several months.
Dr. Jay Varma, a top health adviser to de Blasio, said that the goal of the initiative was not to allow for large theater crowds now, but to prepare so that theaters could open with large crowds by September. He said that the city’s safety protocols for shows at that time will depend on the health situation, which he expects to improve based on decreasing virus spread and increasing vaccine availability.
“The most important part is getting the most people in the Broadway community vaccinated quickly,” de Blasio said. “That’s the foundation of everything we need to do.”