MAKING THEATERGOERS FEEL COMFORTABLE POST-COVID-19

RETURN DATE STILL UNCLEAR BUT MOST PRODUCTIONS EXPECTED BACK  

BROADWAY CONSIDERING BRANDED MASKS, SOCIAL DISTANCING SEATING

SHOWS COULD ALSO OPEN EARLIER TO CUT DOWN LINES

As with so many other businesses and industries affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Broadway has had its lights turned off. It has been less than two months since Broadway was shuttered and thousands of jobs and millions of dollars have been lost. But as the saying goes in that industry, the show must go on. But when and how? Will there be social distancing seating? Will theaters offer masks with show branding and hand sanitizer? Tonight, Tony award-winning producer Ken Davenport explores what Broadway can do to make theatergoers more comfortable post-pandemic.

Aired on May 5, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS' I'M JACK FORD.

AS WITH SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES AND INDUSTRIES AFFECTED BY THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, BROADWAY HAS HAD ITS LIGHTS TURNED OFF.

FOR MORE THAN TWO MONTHS NOW SINCE THE TIME BROADWAY SHUTTER THOUSANDS OF JOBS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS LOST.

BUT AS THE SAYING GOES IN THAT INDUSTRY, THE SHOW MUST GO ON.

THE QUESTION NOW BECOMES WHEN AND IN WHAT FASHION.

TO TALK ABOUT ALL OF THAT, WE'RE PLEASED TO BE JOINED BY TONY-AWARD WINNER AND LEGENDARY BROADWAY PRODUCER, KEN DAVENPORT.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

PLEASURE TO CHAT WITH YOU.

MY PLEASURE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

MY FIRST QUESTION TO YOU, AND I'VE ASKED SOME OTHER BROADWAY FOLK S ABOUT THIS IS, WHAT ARE YOUR VERY FIRST THOUGHTS WHEN YOU HEARD THAT BROADWAY WAS GOING TO BE SHUTTER.

SO MY VERY FIRST THOUGHTS WERE, WE WON'T BE DOWN THAT LONG, WE CAN'T BE DOWN THAT LONG, RIGHT, WE'RE BROADWAY.

THIS IS A COMMON NOT ONLY ON BROADWAY BUT A NEW YORKER THOUGHT.

WE'RE A VERY RESILIENT GROUP OF PEOPLE AND THINK NOTHING CAN AFFECT US FOR THAT LONG.

AND SO I ACTUALLY, THE FRIDAY BEFORE THE SHUT DOWN I SAID TO MY OFFICE LET'S TEST WORKING FROM HOME.

WE'LL JUST TEST IS, WE'LL SEE HOW IT GOES AND OVER THE WEEKEND OF COURSE THE GOVERNOR ISSUED THE STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS, SO WE NEVER WENT BACK TO WORK.

I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE SHORTER.

I WAS WRONG.

YEAH.

SO WHAT DOES A BROADWAY PRODUCER WHO HAS LITERALLY RIGHT NOW NOTHING TO PRODUCE DO WITH HIS TIME?

WELL, THAT'S THE THING, RIGHT, SO BROADWAY PRODUCERS ARE ENTREPRENEURS, WE ARE START-UP BUSINESS PEOPLE.

THIS IS WHAT WE DO.

SO I'M DOING A LOT OF MY R AND D WORK, MY DEVELOPMENT WORK.

SO I GOT A NUMBER OF PROJECTS IN LINE FOR BROADWAY THAT WEREN'T SCHEDULED TO BE HERE FOR COUPLE YEARS SO I FOCUS ON THOSE.

WHETHER THE NEIL DIAMOND OR A LOT OF THE SCRIPT AND EARLY WORK.

SO IN SOME WAYS THIS HAS GIVEN YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO THINGS THAT OTHERWISE, THINGS THAT ARE GOING ACTIVELY YOU WOULDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO DO.

YEAH, ONE OF THE BEST PIECES OF ADVICE I GOT FROM SOMEONE OUTSIDE THE INDUSTRY IS THIS IS A GREAT TIME FOR ALL BUSINESS OWNERS TO LOOK AT THE PLUMBING OF THEIR BUSINESS.

RIGHT.

YOU CAN'T SELL ANYTHING RIGHT NOW.

IT'S LIKE, WE CAN'T SELL TICKETS.

EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO NO ONE IS GOING TO BUY THEM, RIGHT.

SO DON'T TRY.

SO I'M WORKING ON THE SCRIPT.

WE'RE WORKING ON THE SCORES.

I'M WORKING ON THE MARKETING MATERIALS.

WE'RE CRAFTING THAT.

AND THEN WE'LL BE READY WHEN THIS IS ALL SAID AND DONE AND HOPEFULLY A LITTLE AHEAD.

AND THE PLUMTING WILL BE IF -- PLUMBING WILL BE IN EVEN BETTER SHAPE.

ALL RIGHT.

HERE'S A QUESTION I'M SURE YOU'RE BESIEGED BY, I'M GOING TO ASK IT ANYWAY, THAT IS, YOUR BEST-INFORMED GUESS AS TO WHEN THERE WILL BE SOME TYPE OF PRODUCTIONS AVAILABLE ON BROADWAY WOULD BE WHEN?

THIS IS THE QUESTION, AND FRANKLY EVERY TIME I TRY TO GIVE AN ANSWER TO THEY REQUEST, -- AN ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION BY THE TIME I START TO GIVE THE ANSWER MY OPINION CHANGEDS.

BROADWAY WILL COME BACK WHEN TAKING CUES FROM GOVERNOR AND FEDERAL AND STATE OFFICIALS AN THE DOCTORS.

THIS IS WHAT IT'S ABOUT.

I LISTEN TO FAUCI FRANKLY LIKE HE IS OUR RESIDENT.

SO WE HAVE TO TAKE OUR CUES FROM THAT ABOUT THE SPECIFICS.

I ALSO THINK ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES, I WROTE ABOUT THIS IN A BLOG THE OTHER DAY, ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES BROADWAY HAS IS TO LOOK AT WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING.

THERE'S PRODUCTIONS GOING ON IN SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA RIGHT NOW.

THERE WILL BE OTHER MASS GATHERINGS, EVEN OF A FEW HUNDRED PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY AS WE SEE CERTAIN STATE THAT'S ARE NOT EPICENTERS START TO OPEN UP, WHETHER LARGE CHURCHES OR OTHER EVENTS SO WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS IN TERMS OF PROTOCOL WHAT'S WORKING, WHAT'S NOT.

IN TERMS OF YOUR QUESTION, WE'LL COME BACK WHEN OUR AUDIENCE IS READY TO COME BACK.

I KEEP SAYING THE FIRST TIME WE OPEN UP BACK AGAIN, I MEAN, IT'S GOING TO BE AND IT SHOULD BE ELECTRIC.

WE WILL BE SO STARVED FOR THAT TYPE OF ENTERTAINMENT.

I SAW YOU SAY THAT AND MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS, I WANT TO BE IN THE THEATER.

YEAH.

THAT FIRST NIGHT.

IMAGINE THAT FEELING.

WE HAD THE SAME THING AFTER 9/11 WHEN WE REOPENED.

AND THAT WAS ONLY A COUPLE DAYS.

SO IMAGINE WHAT IT'S GOING TO BE LIKE FOR YOU BEING ONE OF THOSE THEATER-GOERS THAT FIRST NIGHT.

SO IT'S GOING TO BE AMAZING.

NOW I WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE IN THAT AUDIENCE IS SO FOCUSED ON THE FACTS AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE.

WE DON'T WANT -- I DON'T WANT EVERYONE TO BE NERVOUS OR CONCERNED.

AND SO, I FEEL LIKE WE ARE GOING TO WAIT UNTIL WE'RE READY FOR THAT.

I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHEN THAT WILL BE.

I MEAN, I WAS JUST READING CNN, FAUCI THINKS THERE MAY BE A VACCINATION EARLIER.

IT CHANGES SO FREQUENTLY.

QUITE LITERALLY MINUTE TO MINUTE.

WE'RE TALKING WITH TONY-AWARD WINNING BROADWAY PRODUCER, KEN DAVENPORT ABOUT THESE ISSUES.

NOW LET ME ASK YOU IN FASHION QUESTION.

I KNOW YOU'RE REACHING OUT TO PEOPLE, WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO, AND WHAT KIND OF IDEAS ARE YOU GETTING THAT YOU THINK MIGHT MAKE SOME SENSE?

SO I'M A BIG BELIEVER IN SURVEYING AND ASKING PEOPLE THEIR OPINIONS.

YOU KNOW, OFTEN WE GET A LOT OF PEOPLE SAYING AROUND BOARD TABLES AND THINGS, AND LIKE, HEY, WE'RE TAUKSING ABOUT THIS, IT'S IMPORTANT.

IN ALL INDUSTRIES THIS IS HAPPENING.

I'M A BIG BELIEVER ASKING KIDS, ASKING FRANKLY JUST TODAY I HAD A BLOG ASKING INVESTORS, WHEN WILL YOU WANT TO COME BACK AND SUPPORT THIS INDUSTRY THAT YOU LOVE.

THAT'S A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION.

WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE, BROADWAY ISN'T A GIANT CORPORATION.

BUSINESSES MADE UP BY INDIVIDUAL INVESTORS.

WILL THEY WANT TO COME BACK RIGHT AWAY?

WHO KNOWS.

SO I ALSO ASKED THEATER-GOERS, LIKE, WHAT WILL MAKE YOU COMFORTABLE?

WE GOT A WHOLE BUNCH OF RESPONSES THAT ARE FASCINATING AND INTERESTING.

EVERYTHING FROM SOCIAL DISTANCING IN SEATS, WHICH, AGAIN, I'M NOT SURE ABOUT.

I THINK I'D WANT A FULL HOUSE.

TO CUSTOM MASKS, YOU KNOW, WITH THE SHOW BRAND ON THEM.

TO ALL SORTS OF THINGS, HAND SANITIZER, AND ALLOWING AU AUDIENCES TO COME INTO THE THEATER EARLIER SO THERE AREN'T LINES.

ALL SORTS OF THINGS.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS IS IT IS A GIANT WHITE BOARD RIGHT NOW.

WE NEED TO THROW OUT LOTS OF IDEAS AND FIND THE ONES THAT MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE AND GET THEM COMING BACK.

WE TALK ABOUT THE PHRASE USED ALL THE TIME WHEN TALKING ABOUT THIS SCENARIO, THE LIGHTS WENT OUT ON BROADWAY, THE DOORS WERE SHUTTERED ON BROADWAY, ONCE IT'S TIME TO COME BACK IN WHATEVER FASHION IT'S GOING TO BE, IS IT POSSIBLE TO SIMPLY JUST FLIP THE LIGHT SWITCH, TURN THE LIGHTS BACK ON IN THESE THEATERS, WHAT HAS TO TAKE PLACE, LET'S TALK ABOUT THOSE THAT WERE UP AND RUNNING WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, IF YOU WILL, WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR THEM TO GET BACK.

IT'S A GOOD QUESTION BECAUSE WE'RE NOT A PENCIL FACTORY, WE JUST SHUT DOWN, THREE MONTHS LATER WE COME BACK AND TURN ON THE LIGHTS AND START MAKING PENCILS.

IT DOESN'T HAPPEN THAT WAY.

WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH SOME REHEARSAL TO GET EVERYONE BACK UP TO SPEED, MAKE SURE OF SAFETY -- IF THERE WASN'T PANDEMIC WE NEED TO GO THROUGH SAFETY PROTOCOL.

NOW WE'VE GONE THROUGH THIS HEALTH CRISIS AND WE HAVE A LOT OF ISSUES TO DEAL WITH ABOUT KEEPING OUR COMPANY SAFE.

NOT ONLY THE AUDIENCE BUT HOW DO WE KEEP THE MUSICIANS SAFE IN THE PITS AN THE ACTORS AND ALL OF THE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE THAT IT TAKES TO PUT ON A BIG MUSICAL.

SO IT WILL TAKE SOME EFFORT.

BIG MARKETING CAMPAIGNS WILL NEED TO COME BACK, RIGHT.

SO A LOT OF THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN BEFORE WE EVEN TURN THE LIGHTS ON, FROM REHEARSALS TO GETTING THE WORD OUT TO THE CUSTOMERS WE'RE GOING TO BE OUT FOR SEVERAL MONTHS.

THE ENGINE DOESN'T JUST FLIP ON.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GIVE IT A BIG OLD CRANK.

IS THERE A CONCERN THAT SOME SHOWS THAT WERE RUNNING AND MAYBE DOING FAIRLY WELL BEFORE THIS HAPPENED EITHER FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS MAYBE OTHERS HAVE OTHER COMMITMENT NOW IN TERMS OF THE TIME OR THE THEATERS OR WHATEVER ISSUE MIGHT A RISE THAT SOME OF THEM THAT WERE SUCCESSFUL MIGHT NOT COME BACK AT ALL.

YEAH THERE'S ALWAYS A CONCERN AND I THINK THERE'S A BIG UNKNOWN TO THAT.

I DON'T KNOW, FROM WHAT I'M HEARING MOST OF THE SHOWS RIGHT NOW ARE ALL COMING BACK, EXCEPT A COUPLE ANNOYANCED -- ANNOUNCED THEY WEREN'T.

BUT RIGHT NOW SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE'S GEARING UP TO COME BACK.

WHICH IS GREAT AND EXCITING.

IT'S STILL AN UNKNOWN WHEN THINGS GET BACK.

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT WILL LOOK LIKE.

THIS IS WHY FRANKLY WE NEED A LOT OF SUPPORT.

NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT GOVERNMENTAL SUPPORT, BUT I AM.

I WANTED TO ASK YOU THAT TOO ABOUT, IS BROADWAY -- WE TALK ABOUT BROADWAY AS IF IT IS A MONOLITHIC ENTITY, AS YOU SAID IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW IT'S A SERIES OF SMALL BUSINESSES, GREAT CHARACTERIZATION YOU USED.

AND YOU ARE ALL ENTREPRENEURS RUNNING THESE SMALL BUSINESSES SO IS THERE ANY HELP EITHER IMMEDIATELY OR ON THE HORIZON FOR THE BROADWAY, THOSE SMALL BUSINESSES FROM EITHER FEDERAL OR STATE GOVERNMENT?

WELL, WE HAVE A LOT OF FAITH IN OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND THEY KNOW THAT BROADWAY PROVIDES A HECK OF A LOT OF MONEY TO THE BOTTOM LINE OF THIS CITY, NOT ONLY IN DIRECT TAXES AND ALL OF THE OTHER THINGS, BUT, JUST, OTHER REVENUE, THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF BROADWAY, WE HIRE A LOT OF PEOPLE, WE BRING A LOT OF PEOPLE TO THIS CITY.

SO THEY CERTAINLY KNOW THAT.

AND THEY'VE BEEN SUPPORTIVE.

SO WE'RE HOPEFUL THEY WILL CONTINUE TO BE AND RECOGNIZE THAT, AND WE'LL SEE.

BROADWAY I BELIEVE IS NOT ONLY ECONOMIC ENGINE BUT IT'S ALSO A SYMBOL, RIGHT, OF THE LITERAL AND FIGURE ATIVE HELP.

SO IT'S TO ALL OF OUR BENEFIT THAT IT COME BACK AND COME BACK STRONG, INCLUDING ALL OF THE LOCALS.

LIKE WE ARE HOPING THAT THE LOCALS COME BACK AND BUY A TICKET TO A SHOW RIGHT AWAY AND THAT THEY GO SEE THEIR FAVORITE SHOW WHEN THEY CAN, WHEN THEY FEEL COMFORTABLE.

IN DOING SO.

BECAUSE THAT'S GOING TO BE IMPORTANT.

BROADWAY'S IMPORTANT.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU.

I GOT ABOUT A MINUTE HERE FOR THIS.

BUT THE FANS ARE UNDERSTANDABLY STARVED FOR BROADWAY, FOR PLAYS, AND FOR MUSICALS AND FOR EVERYTHING THAT IT GIVES US, WHAT'S A QUICK MESSAGE THAT YOU COULD SEND OUT TO PEOPLE WATCHING THIS WHO ARE IN THAT FAN BASE TO LET THEM WALK AWAY FROM THIS CONVERSATION WITH.

AS YOU SAID AT THE TOP OF THIS, THE SHOW WILL GO ON, IT WILL JUST BE A LITTLE BIT LATER THAN WE WOULD LIKE.

BROADWAY HAS ROLLED OUT A GREAT CAMPAIGN CALLED ONLY INTERMISSION.

THAT'S WHAT WE'RE ON, IT'S ONLY INTERMISSION, WE WILL BE BACK.

OH, THAT'S GREAT.

THE INTERMISSION IS A LITTLE BIT LONGER, SO GOOD NEWS IS YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO HIT THE RESTROOM, NO RUSH.

WE WILL BE BACK.

AND WE WILL BE BACK AND WILL EVENTUALLY BE BIGGER AND BETTER THAN WE EVER WERE BEFORE.

WE'VE GONE THROUGH SOME MAJOR WORLD EVENTS, THE THEATER, REMEMBER, HAS BEEN AROUND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF YEARS RIGHT, RIGHT.

IT HANT GOING ANYWHERE.

AND GREAT THING IS TO REMIND THEATER GOERS WHY THEY LOVE IT, BECAUSE IT LIFTS SPIRITS.

IT DOES.

AND WE'LL BE READY WITH OPEN ARMS TO LIFT EVERYONE'S SPIRITS WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER.

THAT'S WHAT WE COUNT ON FROM BROADWAY, LEGENDARY BROADWAY PRODUCER, KEN DAVENPORT, WE LOOK FORWARD TO BEING IN THEATER WITH YOU ON THE NEXT PRODUCTION.

LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING YOU.

STAY WELL.

TAKE CARE NOW.

YOU TOO, BYE-BYE.

♪ 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY -- ♪

©2021 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489