A Year of Shutdown: The Actors and Streets Now

A year has passed since March of last year, when Broadway, New York’s theater street, closed. Foot traffic to the area, with around 40 theaters, plummeted. It is gloomy, even by day, and it takes a bit of courage to walk around alone.

According to local media, theaters closed for one month in 1919 as the Spanish flu spread. In September 2001, they reopened two days after the coordinated terror attacks, becoming a symbol of recovery. They have also been shut during union strikes, but this is the first time they have been closed so long.

The shutdown is currently scheduled until the end of May, but it is predicted that reopening will be postponed until after Labor Day in September. A Broadway insider says that “ticket sales are an important source of revenue. It’s hard to limit seating capacity,”* and that there are arguments over whether theaters will reopen before vaccinations are widespread.

When the theaters closed, life grew a degree harder for young actors and dancers. Many people without a job left New York, but 27-year-old actor Ben Bogen says that “if I stay in New York, I might get another chance”*; besides unemployment insurance, he saves living expenses from part-time jobs at a clothing store and as a receptionist at an insurance firm and waits for Reopening Day.

Bogen says that life is hard, but he’s looking forward. The dance and acting classes that he teaches over Zoom, a video conferencing app, during the COVID-19 disaster are well-received, and he says, “when I see people smile onscreen, it makes me think that I have the power to brighten their moods. I think everyone wants entertainment right now.”*

The restaurant world also was hit hard by the COVID-19 catastrophe, with about 5,000 restaurants closing in New York. But most restaurants, with indoor dining banned, started to offer outdoor dining, delivery and takeout; a restaurant owner thinks that “if indoor dining goes back 100% to what it was, we’d do better than before.”* The little stalls with outdoor dining that have popped up here and there along the roads will also be allowed to stay in business from here on.

New York has lost many things in a year of the COVID-19 disaster, but it has not stood still, even in a pinch, and a new landscape is being born.

*This quotation, though accurately translated, cannot be verified.

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