Theatre

“If We Don’t Wake Up and Shake Up the Nation”

“The theatre community, at every turn, refuses to let hate win. Through the AIDS crisis, through 9/11, through many unthinkable tragedies, the theatre community has said: We will not spread hate. All people are welcome here. When other communities say ‘your religion makes you a terrorist’ or ‘your sexuality makes you an outsider’, we say: We love you. We want to hear your stories. We want to raise our voices together to affect change. Anyone who has ever actually read a history book knows: this action matters. Hate rhetoric creates more hate. Acceptance creates more acceptance.”

— Jennifer Ashley Tepper

On September 11, 2001, at least one person’s life was saved by leaving the World Trade Center to go pick up the newly released cast album of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick… BOOM!

On September 13, 2001, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani stated, “the best thing you can do for our city is take in a Broadway show.”

When some shows resumed performances on this day, the cast of The Music Man led the cast in “God Bless America.” The star, Robert Sean Leonard, offered sympathies for the victims and families and added, “But our country will go on; our city will go on, and, as is our tradition, our show will go on.” The stagehands at Proof sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Attendees of The Producers were treated to a special performance of “God Bless America” after the show.

On September 28, 2001, the first people allowed to return to Time Square were the casts of every show playing on Broadway, alongside Elaine Stritch, Joel Grey, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Glenn Close, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth, Bernadette Peters, and more. They filmed the iconic “I Love New York” commercial, that ran in 20 countries (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p-MjX3yCPk).

“All New Yorkers wanted to do something,” Ms. Peters said, “and the Broadway community did what we could which was to show that we need to band together and tell people not to be afraid.”

Broadway producers donated $5 from every ticket sale to the Twin Towers Fund, raising about $750,000.

On November 1, New York City bought 50,000 tickets at $50 each, 35,000 of which were given to NYC & Company, the city tourism bureau, for a “Spend Your Regards to Broadway” campaign. The promotion gave two tickets to a Broadway show to anyone who spent $500 at city stores or bought other theater tickets.

Of the 35,000 tickets, 12,500 pairs were given to people who turned in receipts (which averaged $720) and 1,500 pairs were given to restaurants and stores downtown for their own promotions. The rest were given to groups like the Nassau County School Superintendents, who were treated to museum visits, dinner and theater performances in the hope they would resume canceled school trips. The tourism bureau also bartered tickets with radio stations as an added promotion. The remaining 15,000 tickets went to the Twin Towers Fund for firefighters, police officers, rescue workers and victims’ families.

The budget-slashing of the arts is already heartbreaking to those who understand the impact that they can have. President of the Actors’ Equity Association, Kate Shindle, said the arts “are an economic engine, offering jobs not just for actors and directors, but for ushers, ticket-takers and the like — and arts in turn fuel other businesses, such as hotels and bars, helping revitalize communities from Pittsburgh to Durham, N.C.”

The National Endowment for the Arts matters, the arts matter, theatre matters. The existence of artists and the opportunity to create is a necessity. Even the smallest impact can create a change that revolutionizes the world.

“What does it take
To wake up a generation?
How can you make someone take off and fly?
If we don’t wake up
And shake up the nation
We’ll eat the dust of the world
Wondering why
Why

Why do we follow leaders who never lead?
Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution?
If we’re so free, tell me why?
Someone tell me why
So many people bleed?”

— Louder Than Words, tick, tick… BOOM!

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