COVID: Year without income leaves Broadway stars scrambling | Arts and Culture News


A year ago, Max Kumangai dazzled crowds with a jolt of live excitement on Broadway, performing in New York’s famous theatrical scene. Now he does it with his bread.

The Triple Threat of the musical “Jagged Little Pill” looked at a fourth skill as the pandemic progresses: baking and selling your own sourdough.

From his Manhattan apartment, Kumangai delivers $ 15 breads or $ 8 focaccia slices on foot or by subway from his company Humpday Dough.

“I wanted to make connecting with people – at a time when it was difficult to connect – part of the business,” he says. “It feeds me figuratively and literally.”

Max Kumangai poses with Ayanna Berkshire and Shavey Brown at the Scottsboro Boys opening night at the Center Theater Group / Ahmanson Theater on May 2013, in Los Angeles [File: Ryan Miller/Invision/AP Photo]

With TV and movie sets slowly returning a year after the COVID-19 hit, Broadway theaters are still closed with limited openings allowed from April 2. The new rules are unlikely to lift the curtain on Broadway shows. Producers say social distancing rules that limit audience numbers make show openings financially unsustainable.

With the one-year shutdown, people who make a living in live entertainment have had to get creative.

Unemployed seamstresses sell handmade jewelry and plush toys on Etsy, dancers teach online and actors do voiceover work, podcasts, or sell videos on Cameo.

“It’s a paycheck-to-paycheck-to-paycheck profession. We are workers, ”says Tony Laureate Laura Benanti. “It’s really upsetting to me that there are so many people who are in pain, unable to feed themselves. They have no savings. “

Laura Benanti poses for a portrait to promote the film Worth at the Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2020, in Park City, Utah [File: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP Photo]

According to a new report from the New York State Comptroller, employment for New York City workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries has fallen 66% during the pandemic.

‘Thoughts after’

The drop – from 87,000 jobs in February 2020 to 34,100 jobs three months later – marks the largest drop in employment among any sector of the city’s economy. It left Broadway workers, many of whom lost their Medicare, living on side gigs, stimulus checks and unemployment aid.

“I’ve had a lot of friends who come to search, move, and relocate to different states because we’re staying in one of the most expensive states in the country,” says Ain’t Too actor Jawan M Jackson Proud – The life and times of temptations. He turned to releasing a single, shooting a movie and getting into commercials.

He hoped the heads of government would do more. “We feel like we’re right after the fact,” he said. “I just wish they would have been a little better during the shutdown for us because of the difficult situation we are in. But I hope it is will change. We’ll see.”

Others are more abrupt. “These artists must be protected. They need to be supported. It’s a desperate situation right now, ”said Tom Kitt, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. “It is the cornerstone of this city.”

Theater work, even without a pandemic, is usually a piecemeal existence. Shows rarely last for years and workers live a nomadic existence, leaping to new works every few years. These days they’re even more sketchy since the people doing live theater will clearly be the last to get back to work.

“You pick things up where you can. I know a lot of people who have taken side gigs when they can. A lot of people have gone back to school, ”Tony nominee Derek Klena said. “You are doing what you can to get by.”

From left to right, Kathryn Gallagher, Derek Klena, Elizabeth Stanley, Celia Rose Gooding, Sean Allan Krill and Lauren Patten appear on stage during the Jagged Little Pill Broadway opening night curtain call at the Broadhurst Theater in December 2019 [File: Greg Allen/Invision via AP Photo]

Musician Andrew Griffin had landed a great job playing viola for Ain’t Too Proud when the pandemic ended his regular gig. He concocted a few live concerts, composed for a dance company, and did some consulting work.

He saw people selling their instruments and their cars. A woman close to him even sold his eggs. “It’s really very difficult and very stressful in a lot of ways,” he says.

Some of Broadway’s main men – including Jeremy Jordan, Max von Essen, Corey Cott and Adam Pascal – have turned to Cameo, which pays celebrities to create personalized videos for fans.

“I’ve worked my way around paying these bills every month,” says Pascal, a Tony-rental candidate who made his own rent this year by teaching masterclasses and concerts. “Rotate the way I am able to rotate.”

Some of Broadway’s Greatest Ladies – from Patti Murin, Cassie Levy, Kerry Butler, Lilli Cooper to Ashley Park – coached, sang, and answered questions virtually on Broadway Booker, who went from organizing events in person. at online events. A 30 minute private coaching session by a veteran can start at $ 75.

Broadway dancer Jen Frankel lost her job but quickly became an employer by co-founding the virtual dance platform PassDoor, hiring suddenly unemployed Broadway veterans to teach at all skill levels or ages.

“We thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity for us to not only help the Broadway community, but also to help everyone by giving them a chance to dance with people they never would have.”

Bebe Neuwirth, a two-time Tony winner who has also starred in Cheers, works with dancers on career transitions and worries about the losses her artistic form has suffered as a result of the pandemic.

“I know a lot of dancers say, ‘OK, I have to get a scholarship and go back to school and do something, because I can’t make it work,’ she says. “Who knows what these dancers could have done if they had stayed?”





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