BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL USHERS IN BROADWAY’S COMEBACK

Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell is leading the charge to bring live music back to New York City stages. He’ll be performing at Lincoln Center this summer and as chairman of The Actors Fund, Broadway’s favorite leading man is also helping the theater community get back on its feet. Since March 2020, the organization has provided more than $22 million to over 16,000 entertainment professionals. Tonight, the actor joins us to discuss this vital work, the reopening of Broadway theaters, and his new outdoor show, “Out with the Old, In with the New.”

Aired on July 20, 2021.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

TONY HAS BEEN DELIGHTING AUDIENCES WITH HIS SINGING AND ACTING TALENTS FOR DECADES NOW.

ONCE DESCRIBED AS THE LAST GREAT LEADING MAN, HE'S NOW LEADING THE CHARGE TO GET LIVE MUSIC BACK ON TO NEW YORK CITY STAGES WITH HIS UPCOMING OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW CONCERTS AT LINCOLN CENTER.

HE'S ALSO BEEN DEEPLY INVOLVED WITH HELPING TO PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR PERFORMERS DURING THE PERIOD OF THE PANDEMIC THROUGH HIS WORK AS THE CHAIR OF THE ACTOR'S FUND.

WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HIM JOIN US HERE ONCE AGAIN AT 'METROFOCUS.'

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

THANKS, JACK.

GOOD TO SEE YOU, TOO.

THANKS FOR JOINING ME.

THE LAST TIME YOU AND I CHATTED YOU WERE JUST COMING OUT OF YOUR OWN BOUT WITH COVID.

TELL ME HOW YOU'RE DOING NOW.

I SEEM TO BE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT, WHICH IS REALLY, REALLY GREAT, WHICH IS THAT I HAD A BAD CASE OF IT.

I DIDN'T END UP IN THE HOSPITAL BUT JUST SHORT OF THAT.

AND THE EFFECTS OF IT LASTED, I THINK, OR I WOULD SAY PROBABLY ANOTHER TWO AND A HALF MONTHS OR SO AFTER THE INITIAL TWO AND A HALF WEEKS THAT I HAD.

YOU KNOW, I WAS STILL GETTING TIRED.

I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN GOING THROUGH THIS AS WELL, BUT I HAD IT SUCH A LONG TIME AGO.

I WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PEOPLE I KNEW OF THAT HAD IT.

THAT'S WHY I WENT PUBLIC WITH IT AS WELL.

BUT I'M FEELING BETTER NOW THAT WE HAVE THE VACCINE.

I WAS OUT AT BROADWAY, THE FIRST BROADWAY OPENING, WHICH WAS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.

HE VERY GENEROUSLY CAME IN AND DECIDED TO DO HIS SHOW AGAIN.

I WAS IN A THEATER OF VACCINATED PEOPLE CELEBRATING THIS OPENING AGAIN.

AND I WENT TO TWO OTHER SHOWS THAT WEEK AS WELL OF OTHER THINGS THAT WERE OPENING UP, WHICH WAS REALLY, REALLY EXCITING.

SOMETHING '54 BELOW.'

AND JAMES WESLEY HAD BEEN DOING STARS IN THE HOUSE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE ACTORS' FUND.

WE HAD OUR FIRST LIVE SHOW TOGETHER CELEBRATING THE MILLION DOLLARS THAT THEY RAISED FOR THE ACTORS' FUND.

SO NOW WE'RE IN THIS TIME OF CELEBRATION.

GOOD.

THAT'S WONDERFUL.

GREAT VENUES, GREAT PEOPLE AND GREAT TO BE OUT AGAIN, TO BE VACCINATED, TO GET OUT.

SPEAKING OF GETTING OUT AND VENUES, YOU ARE COMING UP AND THE DATES ARE JULY 21st THROUGH JULY 23rd, AUGUST 4th THROUGH THE 14th THROUGH THE LINCOLN CENTER RESTART STAGES PROGRAM.

YOUR OWN CONCERTS I MENTIONED THE TITLE I HAVE SEEN IS 'OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW.'

CERTAINLY APPROPRIATE CONSIDERING WHAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH.

WE HAVE GONE THROUGH IT, HAVEN'T WE?

EVERYBODY HAS HAD SO MANY CHALLENGES THIS YEAR.

MAKES ME THINK BACK TO THE 1917 PANDEMIC.

NOT THAT I WAS THERE.

YOU AND I ARE OLD.

WE'RE NOT THAT OLD.

EXACTLY.

FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, THAT IS WHAT KIND OF GAVE BIRTH TO THE ROARING '20s.

EVERYBODY WENT THROUGH THIS DARK, DEPRESSING TIME AND THEY WERE ALSO SHUT IN AND ISOLATED AND EVERYTHING.

WHEN IT PASSED OVER, EVERYBODY WENT CRAZY AND THERE WAS THIS NEW BOOM IN ENTERTAINMENT AND JUST EXCITEMENT AND CELEBRATION AS WELL.

SO THAT'S KIND OF WHAT I WANTED TO CAPTURE, THAT SAME KIND OF SPIRIT WITH MY CONCERT BECAUSE -- BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN SUCH A DIFFICULT TIME.

AND NOW WE ARE ABLE TO GET OUT.

AND I WANTED TO BE ABLE TO CELEBRATE.

I WANTED IT TO BE A CELEBRATION NOT ONLY OF MUSIC BUT OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT AND OF THE FACT WE'RE CAUGHT ALL OUT THERE.

THANK GOD FOR ALL THE SCIENTISTS AND ALL THE ESSENTIAL PEOPLE THAT HAVE KEPT US GOING.

I ALSO, THOUGH, WANT THE SHOW TO KIND OF ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH AS WELL.

I THINK IT'S REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE DON'T FORGET THE SOMETIMES INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT LESSONS THAT WE HAVE LEARNED THROUGH THIS VERY CHALLENGING LAST YEAR THAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH, NOT ONLY THE PANDEMIC, BUT THE GEORGE FLOYD MURDER.

STILL WE HAVE ISSUES WITH SEXUAL INJUSTICE.

WE HAVE DYSFUNCTION IN OUR GOVERNMENT AS WELL.

AND, YOU KNOW, WHAT WE THOUGHT -- I THINK WE THOUGHT EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO FINALLY START COMING TOGETHER.

NO, IT SEEMS TO BE MORE DIVIDED THAN EVER.

BUT I DO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS MORE GOOD PEOPLE THAN BAD PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

SO THIS IS A SHOW WHERE WE'RE GOING TO CELEBRATE ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE AS WELL AND SOME OF THE GOOD THINGS THAT WE HAVE DONE.

AND I WANT PEOPLE TO FEEL BETTER THAN WHEN THEY LEAVE THAN THEY FEEL LIKE WE'RE KIND OF HAVING THIS COMMUNAL EXPERIENCE TOGETHER.

OKAY.

WELL, WE CAN EXPERIENCE AND CELEBRATE AND MOURN AND GET THROUGH WHAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH AND MOVE ON NOW.

WELL, AS YOU SAID, IT IS CERTAINLY THE RIGHT TIME TO CELEBRATE WHERE WE ARE NOW, BUT WITH THE UNDERSTANDING WE NEED TO ALWAYS REMEMBER WHAT WE CAME THROUGH BEFORE WE GOT HERE.

AND A MARVELOUS VENUE FOR YOU TO BE DOING THAT OUTDOORS AND AT LINCOLN CENTER.

I MENTIONED IN MY INTRODUCTION THAT YOU WERE SO DEEPLY INVOLVED AND HAVE BEEN SO DEEPLY INVOLVED IN YOUR ROLE AS THE CHAIR FOR THE ACTOR'S FUND AND PROVIDING SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE IN THE PERFORMING ARTS.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO DO DURING THIS DIFFICULT TIME PERIOD.

WE DID A LOT.

THIS WAS A REALLY, REALLY CHALLENGING TIME PERIOD FOR ANYBODY WHO IS A PERFORMER.

I LOVINGLY CALL PEOPLE THAT AREN'T IN SHOW BUSINESS CIVILIANS BECAUSE I THINK FOR MOST CIVILIANS THE PANDEMIC WILL HAVE MAYBE A TWO-YEAR BEGINNING TO END, YOU KNOW, WHERE PEOPLE FEEL LIKE AT THE END OF THE TWO YEARS, AH, FEELS LIKE LIFE IS BACK TO NORMAL.

FOR PEOPLE IN SHOW BUSINESS, THAT'S PROBABLY GOING TO BE MORE LIKE FIVE YEARS.

AND WHEN I SAY PEOPLE IN SHOW BUSINESS, THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN SHOW BUSINESS ARE NOT THESE MULTIBILLION DOLLAR MAKING STARS THAT YOU SEE ON FILMS AND IN THE NEWS ALL THE TIME.

NO, THEY'RE BASICALLY WORKING PEOPLE WITH GIG JOBS.

WE DID A REALLY WONDERFUL SURVEY THAT WAS ALSO A LITTLE EYE OPENING AT THE AFTER SPUN LAST MONTH, AND WE FOUND OUT SOME REALLY KIND OF INCREDIBLE INFORMATION, YOU KNOW, THINGS LIKE 62% OF PEOPLE IN SHOW BUSINESS REPORTED LOSING A PART-TIME OR GIG EMPLOYMENT.

NOT SO SURPRISING.

A LOT OF PEOPLE DID.

40% FACED FOOD INSECURITY.

28% FELL BEHIND ON THEIR RENT OR THEIR MORTGAGE.

20% HAD BEEN FORCED TO MOVE.

AND 1 IN 10 SAID THEY LOST THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE, WHICH IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING BECAUSE FOR PEOPLE IN SHOW BUSINESS, ACTORS, MUSICIANS, CREW MEMBERS, OUR HEALTH INSURANCE IS BASED ON WEEKS WORK.

WE DIDN'T WORK FOR A WHOLE YEAR.

THAT MEANS A LOT OF PEOPLE LOST HEALTH INSURANCE.

THAT WAS IMPROVED BY COBRA.

WE HAVE SOMETHING IN THE ACTORS OH FUND, WE HAVE A NUMBER OF PROGRAMS AND I HOPE PEOPLE GO ON TO ACTORSFUND.ORG TO FIND OUT ABOUT IT ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE IN SHOW BUSINESS OR WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUT.

BUT WE HAVE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT PROGRAMS.

THE MOST ACTIVE PROGRAM IN THE LAST YEAR HAS BEEN OUR EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FUND.

THE EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FUND GOES FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED THE MOST ESSENTIAL THINGS, HELPING TO PAY THE RENT OR HELPING TO BUY PRESCRIPTIONS, HELPING TO BUY FOOD, THE MOST ESSENTIAL THINGS.

NORMALLY IN A YEAR, WE WOULD GIVE OUT ABOUT $2 MILLION TO ABOUT 1,500 PEOPLE.

SINCE LAST MARCH, WE HAVE GIVEN OUT MORE THAN $22 MILLION TO MORE THAN 16,000 PEOPLE.

AND, AGAIN, THAT'S GOING TO CONTINUE FOR QUITE SOME TIME BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STILL OUT OF WORK, AND IT'S A SLOW RAMP-UP.

WE WERE THE FIRST SECTOR TO BE HIT AND LIKELY ONE OF THE LAST ONES TO COME BACK.

THOSE ARE ASTONISHING NUMBERS AND AS YOU SAID HARD WORK BY SO MANY PEOPLE TO PROVIDE.

ONE LAST QUESTION ABOUT THIS WHOLE IDEA OF REOPENING.

I HAD THIS CONVERSATION A COUPLE MONTHS AGO WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE BROADWAY LEAGUE.

AND I ASKED HER THE QUESTION ABOUT OPENING UP THEATERS, GETTING PEOPLE BACK.

AND SHE HAD AN INTERESTING OBSERVATION.

SHE SAID IT'S NOT ABOUT WHEN THE GOVERNMENT SAYS YOU CAN OPEN UP.

IT IS NOT ABOUT WHEN ALL THE PERFORMERS AND THE CREW PEOPLE ARE READY TO COME BACK INTO THE THEATERS AND WORK.

IT IS ABOUT WHEN US, THE CIVILIANS THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT, THE AUDIENCE, THOSE OF US WHO LOVE GOING TO THEATER, WHEN WE WILL BE READY AND COMFORTABLE TO WALK INTO A FAIRLY CONFINED SPACE OF A THEATER AND SIT NEXT TO A STRANGER.

DO YOU HAVE A SENSE FROM PEOPLE YOU HAVE TALKED TO THAT THOSE OF US, YOU KNOW, THE CIVILIANS, I CAN PROMISE YOU I WILL BE THERE AND MY WIFE WILL BE THERE WITH ME, BUT DO YOU HAVE A SENSE WHERE PEOPLE ARE GETTING TO THAT POINT NOW WHERE THEY'RE READY TO COME BACK AND TO WELCOME THEATER INTO THEIR LIVES?

YEAH, I REALLY DO.

AND I WASN'T SURE AT FIRST.

IT WAS BECAUSE GOING TO THE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN OPENING AND THE OTHER SHOWS I HAVE BEEN TO, THAT'S WHAT MADE ME FEEL LIKE, OH.

I ACTUALLY DID TWO CONCERTS DURING THE PANDEMIC.

ONE WAS AT A 600 SEAT THEATER FOR 45 SOCIALLY DISTANCED PEOPLE.

THE OTHER WAS IN A BACK PARKING LOT.

YOU KNOW, WE DIDN'T DO IT IN THE THEATERS.

WE DID IT OUTSIDE IN THE BACK PARKING LOT FOR 50 PEOPLE.

BUT I ALSO JUST DID RECENTLY ANOTHER CONCERT.

THIS WAS JUST ABOUT FOUR DAYS AGO IN ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA.

IT WAS IN A 700-SEAT THEATER FOR 450 PEOPLE.

AND BY THE WAY, ALL OF THESE AUDIENCES WERE HAPPY TO BE THERE.

AND THE SAME THING WITH THE SPRINGSTEEN AUDIENCE.

EVERYBODY WAS VACCINATED.

WE DIDN'T HAVE TO WEAR MASKS.

AND YOU COULD JUST FEEL THE CELEBRATION, THE EXCITEMENT, THE FACT LIKE, OH, WE'RE HERE.

THIS IS REAL THIS TIME BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW IF EVERYBODY REMEMBERS, BUT LIKE A FEW WEEKS AFTER WE FIRST SHUT DOWN LAST MARCH PEOPLE WERE SAYING, OH, THIS IS A SHORT INTERMISSION.

WE'LL HOPEFULLY SEE YOU NEXT MONTH.

WE DO REMEMBER TALKING WITH PEOPLE SAYING, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

DO YOU THINK IN MAY?

DO YOU THINK IN JUNE?

AND IT KEPT GETTING PUSHED BACK.

BUT THAT'S BECAUSE WE DIDN'T HAVE A VACCINE AT THAT POINT.

AND UNTIL THEN, I KEPT THINKING HOW ARE WE GOING TO OPEN WITHOUT ANY VACCINE OR SOME KIND OF ASSURANCE THAT PEOPLE WON'T GET IT.

NOW WE'RE THERE.

NOW WE HAVE THAT.

FOR THOSE THAT CHOOSE TO DO THAT.

AND EVEN WITH THESE NEW VARIANTS THAT ARE GOING AROUND, EVEN THOUGH SOME PEOPLE HAVE BEEN VACCINATED, I UNDERSTAND HAVE BEEN GETTING SICK AROUND, BUT THEY'RE NOT ENDING UP IN THE HOSPITAL.

IT IS USUALLY LIKE TWO OR THREE DAYS FROM THE PEOPLE I HAVE HEARD ABOUT AND KNOW THAT HAVE HAD EXPERIENCE WITH IT.

IT IS LIKE WHAT YOU WOULD NORMALLY GO THROUGH IN A NORMAL FLU YEAR.

THAT I CAN DO.

I'M THERE.

I'M WITH THAT.

IF I GET A VARIANT AND IT, YOU KNOW, MAKES ME SICK FOR TWO OR THREE DAYS, NOT AS BAD, ANYWHERE NEAR AS BAD AS THE REGULAR COVID WAS, THAT'S, I THINK, WORTH IT FOR PEOPLE.

BECAUSE IT WAS A REALLY TOUGH TIME FOR EVERYBODY FINANCIALLY.

I SEE SO MANY STORES CLOSE AROUND MY NEIGHBORHOOD HERE IN THE UPPER WEST SIDE AND JUST SO MANY PEOPLE OUT OF WORK AND HURTING.

WE DO NEED TO GET BACK.

WE HAD TO FIND THAT BALANCE.

YOU'RE RIGHT.

IT IS HEART-BREAKING WHEN YOU SEE SO MANY SMALL SHOPS AND BUSINESSES, WONDERING, ARE THEY GOING TO COME BACK?

WE NEED PEOPLE TO EMBRACE THE THEATERS AND YOU WILL HELP BRING US THERE.

A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS.

YOU ARE DOING ONE NEW SOLO ALBUM OUT CALLED PLAYS WITH MUSIC, AN INTERESTING CONCEPT.

YOU WILL HOST A LIVE STREAM TALK SHOW STARTING PRETTY SOON, AS A MATTER OF FACT.

IT'S CALLED CROSSOVER LIE.

I GOT ABOUT A MINUTE HALF OR SO.

TELL ME ABOUT THE CROSSOVER LIVE IF YOU WILL.

IT'S A SHOW.

IT'S GOING TO BE A LIVE SHOW.

IT WILL BE STREAMING ON THE STELLAR STREAMING NETWORK.

I'M DOING THE INTERVIEWING, BASICALLY PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY WHO ARE MY FRIENDS.

AND IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE A UNDER THE HOOD LOOK.

IT WILL BE FUN.

IT WILL BE, AGAIN, A CELEBRATION.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT THEY NORMALLY DON'T TALK ABOUT ON A TALK SHOW, YOU KNOW, THE KIND OF THINGS WE WOULD TALK ABOUT IF WE WERE SITTING AROUND IN OUR LIVING ROOMS AND THE INSIDE INFORMATION ABOUT IT AS WELL.

WE HAVE VANESSA WILLIAMS STARTING ON JULY 26th.

EVERY ONCE A MONTH WE WILL HAVE SOMEBODY AROUND THE SAME TIME.

GREAT COMPOSER.

AND WE'RE DOING SIX -- I THINK SIX SHOWS TO START OFF WITH.

AND IT SEEMS TO BE DOING REALLY, REALLY WELL.

PEOPLE CAN GO ON TO STELLAR AND GET TICKETS THERE.

AND PLAYS WITH MUSIC, WHICH OPENED RIGHT BEFORE, YOU KNOW, IT RELEASED RIGHT BEFORE COVID.

I'M KIND OF DOING A NEW RE-RELEASE OF THAT ALBUM BECAUSE I WILL BE DOING A LOT OF THAT MUSIC WHEN I DO THE CONCERT AT LINCOLN CENTER, WHICH IS FREE, BY THE WAY, FOR PEOPLE.

THEY JUST HAVE TO GO AND SIGN UP.

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT CROSSOVER LIVE, THAT'S SUCH A LIST OF LUMINARIES AND FOR US TO BE ABLE TO ESSENTIALLY LISTEN IN TO YOU ALL HAVING YOUR CONVERSATIONS WILL BE MARVELOUS.

DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO CHAT WITH YOU.

BUT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS ORGANIZATION BLACK THEATER UNITED THAT YOU AND SOME OTHERS HAVE GATHERED TOGETHER.

VERY IMPORTANT IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

BUT I PROMISE YOU WE'LL GET YOU BACK HERE AND WE'LL BE ABLE TO SPEND SOME TIME TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

AUGUST 12th AND 14th, LINCOLN CENTER.

PART OF THE RE-START STAGES.

BRIAN STOKES-MITCHELL, IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO TALK WITH YOU.

I'M GLAD YOU ARE FEELING WELL AND YOU ARE BACK OUT ON STAGE.

WE WILL BE THERE TO WATCH AND LISTEN TO YOU.

YOU STAY WELL.

THANKS, JACK.

YOU TOO.

Funders

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