Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin covered COVID protocols, the possibility of another shutdown, and more in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The discussion comes after a number of COVID-related cancellations, postponements, and one closure, though many shows have been able to continue with performances as scheduled.
St. Martin stresses in the interview that the vast majority of shows—more than 20—are still performing.
"We’re very aggressive in our outreach of saying: we’re not closing. Yes, some shows are closing. One day we had five closings, and three of them turned out to be false positives. We did have more closings on Saturday—I think 11. But that still means we had 21 shows performing. We rarely have very many Monday night performances, but speaking to our holiday schedule, tonight there are 13."
She also reassures theatregoers that there are no plans for Broadway to shut down completely, as it did in March 2020 as COVID-19 was first spreading in a world without the vaccines and treatments available now.
Asked about shows' varying cancellation strategies—some productions have canceled single performances, while others are currently dark through Christmas weekend—St. Martin pointed to differing logistical situations each production faces when breakthrough cases and exposures happen.
"My educated guess is the newer shows maybe have understudies that aren’t as efficient in delivering the role as the lead is. Some of the older shows have more experienced understudies and more experienced swings. I know one show last week where the lead was out, the understudy was on vacation, the swings were covering other parts, and they just didn’t have enough people to stand in." [UPDATE: St. Martin has since issued an apology for these remarks, saying there was "never any intention of disrespect" toward understudies and swings. Read her full remarks here.]
St. Martin remains resolute that COVID protocols established by the industry are working and that there have not been compliance issues.
"What I do know is that everybody understands it is in nobody’s best interest to cheat or to risk, because nobody wants the industry shut down or their shows to shut down. It’s why we were able to go from August to last week with almost no shutdowns. Each show makes their determinations based on the facts they’re dealing with that day, then everybody follows the protocols we’ve agreed upon."
The Broadway League's more-than 700 members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers across North America. Established in 1930, the League exists as a trade association for the Broadway industry, promoting common interests of its membership and negotiating collective bargaining agreements with theatrical unions and guilds. St. Martin has been with the organization since 2006.