Metrofocus: June 16, 2022

When it comes to the many dire consequences of the climate crisis, there is one that has typically not gotten a lot of attention or research – and that is the mental health toll that a warming planet can have on people and communities.  The phenomenon is known as eco-anxiety.  Increasingly, psychologists and climate activists are recognizing that the idea of impending global doom can induce feelings of fear, anger, and despair.  Britt Wray, Human and Planetary Health Fellow at Stanford University and author of the new book “Generation Dread”, joins us to discuss the intersection of mental health and climate change, and suggests helpful ways to cope with and turn climate despair into positive action.

We take you behind the scenes of the hit show “Company” that won 5 Tony awards this year, including Best Musical Revival. The show which was written over 50 years ago, pays homage to its creator, the late Stephen Sondheim, who attended a performance just days before he passed away.  Tonight, two of the show’s stars, Christopher Fitzgerald and Nikki Renée Daniels join us.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, CLIMATE ANXIETY AND THE EXTREME IMPACT OUR WARMING PLANET CAN HAVE ON OUR MENTAL HEALTH.

> AND IT'S THE WINNER OF FIVE TONY AWARDS INCLUDING BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL.

THE STARS 'COMPANY' TAKE US BACKSTAGE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- ♪♪

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

WHEN IT COMES THE TO THE MANY DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS, THERE IS ONE THAT HAS TYPICALLY NOT GOTTEN A LOT OF ATTENTION OR RESEARCH, AND THAT IS THE MENTAL HEALTH TOLL THAT A WARMING PLANET CAN HAVE ON PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES.

THE PHENOMENON IS KNOWN AS ECOANXIETY.

INCREASINGLY PSYCHOLOGISTS AND CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE REALIZING THE IDEA OF IMPENDING GLOBAL DOOM CAN HAVE FEAR, ANGER AND DESPAIR.

WHEN CHANNELLED CORRECTLY, THOSE FEARS ARE ACT AS A CATALYST FOR ACTION.

JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT ECOANXIETY AND RECOMMEND HELPFUL COPING STRATEGIES AS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS SOLUTIONS IS BRIT WRAY.

BRIT IS A HUMAN AND PLANETARY HEALTH FELLOW AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY AND AUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK 'GENERATION DREAD, FINDING PURPOSE IN THE AGE OF CLIMATE CRISIS'. BRIT, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THIS CHALLENGING, CHALLENGING TOPIC.

HI, JENNA.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

SO, FIRST I JUST WANT TO START WITH JUST THE NOTION OF ECOANXIETY.

NOW, I WOULD SAY THIS, ALSO MAY BE A BIT OF A GENERATIONAL DIVIDE, BECAUSE SOMETIMES OLDER PEOPLE FEEL YOUNGER GENERATIONS ARE ANXIOUS ABOUT EVERYTHING.

WHAT MAKES THIS ANXIETY UNIQUE AND SPECIFIC?

WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF AN ESCALATING PLANETARY HEALTH CRISIS, WHICH IS THE IMPACT OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR ON THE ENVIRONMENT, WHICH IS NOW COMING BACK TO BITE US AS A NUMBER ONE THREAT TO HUMAN HEALTH.

SO, YES, THE CLIMATE CRISIS BUT ALSO LAND TRANSFORMATION, THE BIODIVERSITY CRISIS, ALL KINDS OF ISSUES.

WE'RE IN A PANDEMIC THAT RELATES TO ZOONOTTICS.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOUNG MEME WHO ARE BECOMING AWARE OF THIS AND THOUSAND THE THREATS ARE COMPOUNDING INTO A POLY CRISIS, SO TO SPEAK IS THEIR FUTURES ARE BEING ENDANGERED ON A DIRECT HUMAN LEVEL AS THEY'RE BEING FORCED TO COMBAT CLIMATE DISASTERS POTENTIALLY SURPASSING CLIMATE TIPPING POINTS AND RECKONING WITH THE IDEA THAT HOMELANDS AND ALIVELY HOODS AND LIVES ARE BEING LOST.

SO IT'S NOT CATASTROPHIC THINKING FORM OF ANXIETY.

IT'S NOT AN ANXIETY DISORDER YOUNG PEOPLE ARE CONTENDING WITH WHEN THEY SAY, HEY, I'M ANXIOUS.

IT'S RATHER HEALTHY TO A DEGREE AS LONG AS IT'S NOT OVERWHELMING AND DEBILITATING THEM, NORMAL RESPONSE TO A SET OF THREATS THAT ARE IMPINGING ON THEIR ABILITY THE FLOURISH INTO THE FUTURE.

HOWEVER, THE IDEA THAT IT IS A BELIEF OF DOOM THAT'S CREATING THIS IS REALLY SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO BE PICKED APART, BECAUSE YOUNG PEOPLE ARE NOT DOOMED.

HUMANITY IS NOT FACING IMPENDING, INEVITABLE CATASTROPHIC LOSS HERE.

RATHER WE'RE CONTENDING WITH THE IDEA THAT SCIENCE IS SHOWING US WE'RE IN A DIFFICULT PLACE ALREADY AND IT'S BECOMING MORE DIFFICULT, AND YET WE NEED TO STEP INTO ROLES OF AGENCY, WORK WITH OTHERS TO SHIFT THE NEEDLE BEFORE MORE CATASTROPHIC EVENTS BECOME INEVITABLE, RIGHT?

SO THERE'S A TENSION THERE AND IT BRUCES ANXIETY WITHIN PEOPLE.

BUT IT CERTAINLY ISN'T A DEAD END.

IT'S AN EMOTIONAL GRAPPLING WITH HOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE AT THIS TIME.

IT'S INTERESTING YOU TALK ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL GRAPPLING OF HOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE AND HANDLE THIS.

BECAUSE SOMETIMES ANXIOUS OR TENSION DRIVEN SITUATIONS CAN BRING OUT DIFFERENT RESPONSES IN PEOPLE.

SO WHAT HAS -- I MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING THAT FEAR AND DREAD BUT ALSO ACTIVISM.

WHAT AT LEAST HAVE YOU FOUND THAT THIS IS BRINGING OUT IN POPULATIONS?

SO, IT'S NOT A MONOLITH.

IT SHOWS UP IN REALLY DIVERSE WAYS ACROSS VARIOUS KINDS OF PEOPLE'S EXPERIENCES RIGHT NOW.

WHETHER THAT BE JUST SHORT-TERM DISTRESS WHEN CONFRONTING THE NEWS, FOR EXAMPLE, OR SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY TRAPS PEOPLE IN A PIT OF DESPAIR, WHEREBY THEY START BELIEVING THAT IT IS TOO LATE TO MAKE A MEANINGFUL DIFFERENCE, AND THIS IS NARRATIVELY -- THEIR FUTURE AND CREATE DEBILITATING STRESS AND IMPAIR FUNCTION.

MIGHT CAUSE PANIC ATTACKS OR SLEEP DISTURBANCES OR EVEN FORMS OF SELF-HARM.

THE LESS SEVERE END WE HAVE PEOPLE RECOGNIZING THAT THEY ARE WORRIED, THEY ARE DISTRESSED ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS ABSOLUTELY VERY SENSIBLE AND COMPASSIONATE TO BE STRESSED ABOUT, BUT IT'S POINTING OUT WAYS IN WHICH THEY CAN ADDRESS THE THING THAT'S STRESSING THEM IT BECOMES A NAVIGATIONAL TOOL, BECOMES SOMETHING THEY CAN MOVE THROUGH, EMOTIONAL WEIGHT TRAINING SO THEY DON'T BECOME SO BURNED OUT ON THE TOPIC, APPLY SELF-CARE AND MOVE TOGETHER WITH OTHERS TO TRY TO IMPROVE THE OUTCOME.

SO IT'S -- I'M SEEING A SIMPLIFICATION THESE DAYS, WHERE A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING, CLIMATE ANXIETY.

THAT EQUATES TO DOOMISM, FATALISM.

THAT EQUATES TO PEOPLE GIVING UP.

AND THAT'S NOT TRUE.

MANY PEOPLE SAY THEIR CLIMATE ANXIETY IS THE SUPER FUEL THAT ALLOWS THEM TO DO THE WORK.

THE QUESTION IS, WHAT DEGREES CAN WE LIMIT IT TO IN OUR OWN LIVES WHILE BRINGING IN THE NOURISHING, JOYOUS ASPECTS OF BEING HUMAN THAT CAN SUPPORT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOING THIS WORK AND NOT CHECK OUT FROM MENTAL EXHAUSTION.

LET'S GET INTO THAT, TERRIBLE PART ABOUT NOT CHECKING OUT AND WHAT IT IS WE CAN DO.

WHAT SIT FIRST OF ALL THINGS THAT ARE STILL TANGIBLE THAT THE AVERAGE, EVERYDAY PERSON CAN DO?

IT SEEMS OFTEN THAT WE HEAR STORIES ABOUT, YOU KNOW, OH, RECYCLING ISN'T AS BENEFICIAL AS YOU THOUGHT IT WAS.

OR, OH, LIKE, YOU MIGHT DO THIS ONE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT, BUT IT HAS THIS NEGATIVE IMPACT AS WELL.

SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE CAN DO THAT ACTUALLY HELP?

WELL, THERE'S INTERNAL ACTIVISM AND EXTERNAL ACTIVISM IN THE CLIMATE CRISIS, AND BOTH ARE WHAT'S PART AND PARCEL OF WHAT'S NEEDED HERE.

. WE NEVER TALK ABOUT THE INTERNAL, BEING ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, EMOTIONS THAT MIGHT BE EXISTENTIAL SO YOU DON'T DROWN WITH THEM WHEN THEY SHOW UP IN ONE'S LIFE, IF THAT IS SOMETHING THE PERSON IS CONTENDING WITH.

AND SO THAT REQUIRES THINGS LIKE SELF-CARE, WHICH WE LEARN FROM FEMINISTS LIKE AUDREY LORD THAT IT'S A POLITICAL ACT TO CARE FOR ONE'S SELF-IT'S AN ACT OF POLITICAL WARFARE TO FILL ONE'S CUP SO YOU CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES.

THAT'S JUST AS RELEVANT HERE.

WAY OF COMMUNING.

PUT IT OUT ON THE TABLE, NOT SUPPRESS IT AND MALADAPTIVELY COPE LATER BECAUSE THE STRESSING STOPS WORKING.

BUT ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO PROCESS THIS AND SAY, HEY, THIS IS VALID, LEGITIMATE.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER THROUGH THIS?

COMMUNITY BUILDING, HIGH SOCIAL TIES ARE WHAT HELP PEOPLE MOVE THROUGH ADVERSITY AND STRUCTURAL DIVERSITY WHEN DISASTER HITS OUR TOWN, FOR EXAMPLE.

BUT WHEN WE CAN THEN UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS A NORMAL NATURAL RESPONSE THAT WE HAVE PEOPLE TO MOVE THROUGH IT WITH, THAT WE CAN START REINVESTING THE ENERGY WE'RE LOSING FROM BEING DISTRESSED INTO ACTIONS THAT MATTER THAT WERE PURPOSEFUL AT THIS TIME, THAT'S WHERE THE EXTERNAL ACTIVISM IS WHERE WE'RE SHIFTING OUR FOCUS.

THE INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS ARE NOT GOING TO GET US THERE.

WE KNOW THAT.

IT CAN BE DEBILITATING TO THINK OF ONE'S RECYCLING WHICH ISN'T MAKING A DENT.

COLLECTIVE CHANGE IS REQUIRED.

THIS MEANS VOTING ON ISSUES THAT ARE STRESSING YOU RELATED TO CLIMATE AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

THIS MEANS PAYING ATTENTION TO WHERE YOU'RE PUTTING YOUR MONEY.

YOUR BANKING.

WHICH ORGANIZATIONS YOU'RE SIGNED UP WITH AND SUPPORTING AND WHERE THEY ARE INVESTED.

ARE THEY FULFILLING FUTURE EXISTENCE OF THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY WITH THEIR INVEST MS.

PRESIDENTS, OR ARE THEY DIVESTING AND PUTTING IT ELSEWHERE?

PENSIONS, FORMS OF COMING TOGETHER WITH CLIMATE ACTIVISM GROUPS, WAY OF BRINGING THE TOPIC INTO YOUR CLASSROOM IF YOU'RE A TEACHER OR INTO THE HEALTH-CARE SETTING IF YOU'RE A HEALTH-CARE WORKER.

REALLY BECAUSE IT'S A CRISIS THAT TOUCHES ALL ASPECT OF LIFE, WE CAN ATTACK IT FROM ALL ANGLES, WHETHER IT'S ACCOUNTANTS RESTRUCTURING HOW THEY'RE DOING THEIR BUSINESS OR CHILDREN STRIKING FROM SCHOOL.

SO IT'S REALLY ABOUT IDENTIFYING WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL ALIVE, WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED, WHAT YOUR SKILLS AND TALENTS ARE AND HOW YOU CAN BRING THAT TO THE ISSUE TOGETHER WITH OTHERS RATHER THAN GET STUCK IN THOUGHT OF BEING A CLIMATE HYPOCRITE BECAUSE YOU HAVE A SUV AND YOU TOOK A FLIGHT THAT TIME, THESE THINGS WHICH REALLY FEED THE ENVIRONMENTALIST CRITIC AND TEAR AWAY OUR ABILITY TO ACT AND UNDERSTAND THAT PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD, AND WE CAN ALL DO THINGS HERE TO HELP BE PART OF THE COLLECTIVE SOLUTION EVEN IF WE AREN'T PERFECT, AND DO UNDERSTAND WE UPHOLD PARTS OF THE STRUCTURES THAT ARE MAKING US UNWELL, BECAUSE WE'RE ALL IN THE SYSTEM WHICH RUNS ON FOSSIL FUELS.

I CAN'T BELIEVE WE'RE ALMOST OUT OF TIME.

WE'VE GOT ABOUT TWO MINUTES LEFT.

I WANT TO ASK THE QUESTION, AS WE COMPARE THE INDIVIDUAL TO THE COLLECTIVE, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE SEEING YOUNGER PEOPLE SAY IS, YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK I WANT TO HAVE KIDS AND ADD TO THE COLLECTIVE PROBLEM OF A CARBON FOOTPRINT.

AND I UNDERSTAND THAT'S A QUESTION YOU WRESTLED WITH YOURSELF.

NOT QUITE.

I WRESTLED WITH A DIFFERENT QUESTION, WHICH IS WHAT WILL A WARMING WORLD DO TO THE SAFETY AND WELL BEING OF A CHILD THAT I PUT INTO IT?

SO LESS OF THE IDEA THAT HUMAN FOOTPRINT EQUALS CARBON FOOTPRINTS AND THEREFORE IT'S AN ECOLOGICAL SIN TO CREATE MORE HUMANS WHICH IS A LONG STAND TROPE IN ENVIRONMENTALISM WHICH HAS BEEN DANIELING AND CURTAILED THE CIVIL LIBERTIES OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD, PREDOMINANTLY IN POOR NATIONS.

HOWEVER, THERE'S THIS OTHER WORRY, WHICH MANY PEOPLE ARE -- ESPECIALLY YOUNG PEOPLE CONFRONTING WHICH IS YES, SOMETIMES THAT CONCERN ABOUT THE FOOTPRINTISM, BUT MUCH MORE SO I'M DISCOVERING IN MY RESEARCH, WHICH IS GOING BACK MANY YEARS AGO NOW FOR MY BOOK ON THIS MATTER, THAT PEOPLE ARE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT CLIMATE DISRUPTION SCENARIO IS GOING TO DO TO ENDANGER CHILDREN'S WELL BEING AND TRAUMATIZE THEM IN THE DECADES AHEAD.

SO THAT IS WHAT OFTEN CAN BURR THE PAINFUL DILEMMA FOR PEOPLE THAT WANT TO BECOME BIOLOGICAL PARENTS BUT CONSIDER IT'S NOT A MORAL THING FOR THEM TO DO AND HAVE TO WRESTLE WE CO -- BEFORE COMING TO A DECISION.

OF COURSE.

WITH ABOUT A MINUTE OR SO LEFT, WE'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE AN ACTIVE HURRICANE SEASON, AND I KNOW THAT'S SENTAWAYS OF ANXIETY FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY IN THE NEW YORK AREA THAT REMEMBER SUPERSTORM SANDY.

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE PEOPLE TO TAKE THAT ANXIETY ABOUT MORE HURRICANES -- YOU KNOW, STRONGER STORMS COMING.

HOW DO YOU TURN THAT INTO SOMETHING POSITIVE?

I'D SAY GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE WHERE YOU ARE LIVING.

INVEST IN COMMUNITY.

COME TOGETHER AND TALK ABOUT HOW YOU'RE FEELING.

BE ABLE TO PROCESS BY SHARING.

THAT'S IMPORTANT.

BUT WHAT'S EVEN MORE VITAL FOR PROTECTING PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL BEING, WHEN THOSE HURRICANES ARE COMING IS TO KNOW YOU HAVE HIGH SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS, PEOPLE TO RELY ON, AND FEEL THAT LACK OF ISOLATION, LACK OF ALIENATION IN ALL THIS WHICH UNDERGIRDS RESILIENCE.

IT BUILDS OUR RESILIENCE TO KNOW WE CAN -- SHARED GOALS.

TIME AND AGAIN, THE RESEARCH CHOSE PEOPLE HAVE LESS PTSD AND -- REBUILD AFTER LIVING IN THAT COMMUNAL EFFECT.

ECOANXIETY CAN BE A TOOL FOR POINTING OUT'ing THAT'S SOMETHING YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF.

I'D LIKE TO THANK MY GUEST, BRIT WRAY, A HUMAN AND PLANETARY HEALTH FELLOW AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY, AND OF COURSE THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK 'GENERATION DREAD, FINDING PURPOSE IN THE AGE OF CLIMATE CRISIS'. BRIT, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING TIME TO JOIN US ON 'METROFOCUS.'

JENNA, THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

IT'S BEEN MORE THAN 50 YEARS SINCE THE ICONIC STEPHEN SONDHEIM SHOW 'COMPANY' OPEN ON BROADWAY.

NOW THE TONY AWARD WINNING BEST MUSICAL IS BACK ON THE GREAT WHITE WAY, AND IT IS BRILLIANT.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

♪ IN COMES COMPANY ♪ ♪♪ ♪ LATE NIGHTS QUICK BITES, PARTIES AND DETOX, LONG WALKS, TELEPHONE CALLS ♪ ♪ THOUGHTS SHARED, SOULS BEARED, PRIVATE NAMES ♪ ♪ ALL THOSE UP ON THE WALLS ♪ ♪ WE LOVE ♪ ♪ WE LOVE FILLING THE DAYS ♪ ♪ WE LOVE 70 WAYS ♪ ♪♪ ♪ AND THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT, ISN'T IT? ♪ ♪ THAT'S WHAT IT'S REALLY ABOUT, ISN'T IT? ♪ ♪ THAT'S WHAT IT'S REALLY ABOUT ♪ ♪ REALLY ABOUT ♪ ♪ COMPANY ♪ ♪ COMPANY ♪ ♪ COMPANY LOVES ♪ ♪ LOVE IS COMPANY ♪ [ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ]

> AND WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE TWO OF THE STARS OF THE 'COMPANY' JOINING US NOW, TALENTED BROADWAY VETERANS CHRISTOPHER FITZGERALD AND NIKKI RENEE DANIELS.

WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GINNING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

YES, LOVELY TO BE HERE.

AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, THE SHOW IS BRILLIANT.

THE TWO OF YOU ARE MARVELOUS.

YOU PLAY AN INTERESTING COUPLE.

WE'LL GET TO THE DETAILS OF THAT IN A MOMENT.

BUT I DO FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO START BY ASKING YOU ABOUT THE SPIRIT OF STEPHEN SONDHEIM.

HE WAS AT YOUR OPENING PRODUCTION BACK IN NOVEMBER.

AND IT WAS SADLY, LITERALLY LESS THAN TWO WEEKS BEFORE HE SUDDENLY PASSED AWAY.

MY QUESTION TO YOU IS AS ACTORS, WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE THE CREATOR OF YOUR SHOW -- AND NOT JUST ANY CREATOR -- STEPHEN SONDHEIM THE CREATOR, IN THE AUDIENCE FOR THAT PERFORMANCE?

LET ME ASK YOU BOTH THE SAME QUESTION.

NIKKI, START OFF WITH YOU, IF I COULD.

WELL, I MEAN, STEPHEN SONDHEIM IS LIKE THE SHAKESPEARE OF MUSICAL THEATER, RIGHT?

I JUST WATCHED THE 'WEST SIDE STORY' MOVIE LAST NIGHT, AND JUST WATCHING IT, I COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT THIS PERSON WHO WROTE THESE LYRICS, YOU KNOW, 60 YEARS AGO WAS THERE FOR OUR REHEARSAL PROCESS, WAS AN INTEGRAL PART OF US TWEAKING LITTLE TWEAKS IN THE SCRIPT AND LYRICS.

AND TO HAVE HIM IN THE REHEARSAL ROOM AND IN THE AUDIENCE WHEN WE DID THE SHOW IS JUST AN AMAZING THING.

IT'S AN HONOR, REALLY, TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PERFORM FOR HIM WHILE HE WAS HERE WITH US.

CHRIS, HOW ABOUT YOU?

WELL, HE HAD -- BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, WE HAD BEGUN PREVIEWS, AND HE WAS -- HAD COME SEVERAL TIMES DURING THAT PROCESS TO SOME REHEARSALS, AND WHEN HE -- WE HAD A RECEPTION AFTER ONE OF THE PREVIEWS.

NIKKI, I DON'T REMEMBER IF YOU WERE THERE.

YOU PROBABLY WERE.

REMEMBER WHEN WE HAD DRINKS?

YEAH, YEAH.

HE KIND OF PARKED HIMSELF AT A SEAT AND ALMOST ONE AT A TIME WE ALL WENT OVER AND HAD SOME TIME JUST TO SPEND WITH HIM ONE-ON-ONE, AND IT WAS REALLY -- HE ALWAYS LOVES TO TALK ABOUT HIS COLLABORATORS.

SO GEORGE FIRTH WAS IN HIS MIND AS HE WAS SPEAKING, TALKING ABOUT HIS BRILLIANCE AND WHAT HE BROUGHT TO THE SHOW ITSELF.

AND THEN COMING OUT OF THE PANDEMIC, THE IDEA THAT HE WAS STILL ABLE TO COME AND BE A PART OF THE EXPERIENCE, AGAIN -- HE WASN'T ABLE TO COME TO REHEARSALS, BUT HAVING HIM THERE AT THAT FIRST PREVIEW, IT WAS -- IT'S SO INTERESTING TO TALK ABOUT IT IN HINDSIGHT, BECAUSE TWO WEEKS LATER HE PASSED AWAY.

BUT I CAN JUST SAY THAT THE ENERGY AND ELECTRICITY FROM THE CAST, FROM THE AUDIENCE, IT WAS SUCH A MOMENTOUS MOMENT ANY WAY, BUT TO HAVE HIM PRESENT JUST MADE IT KIND OF ALMOST LIKE THEATER LORE, THE IDEA THAT HE WAS THERE TWO WEEKS BEFORE OR SO THAT HE PASSED.

AND I JUST REMEMBER, WE WERE ALSO NERVOUS.

I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU ABOUT THAT.

I SAW A VIDEO SOMEBODY HAD TAPED OF HIM COMING INTO THE THEATER AND ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERYBODY'S STILL.

THEY REALIZE WHO HE WAS AND THEY STAND UP, A STANDING OVATION AND THE CAST COMES OUT AND SAYS, THIS IS DEDICATED TO YOU.

BUT I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU ABOUT THAT.

YOU'RE VETERANS.

THE TWO OF YOU HAVE DONE A LOT OF STUFF, A LOT OF REALLY HIGH QUALITY WORK.

DO YOU GET NERVOUS?

DO YOU PEEK OVER AND SAY, IS HE LAUGHING?

THAT'S ALL YOU'RE DOING.

THAT'S LITERALLY ALL I WAS THINKING ABOUT WAS HIM THAT NIGHT.

I DON'T KNOW, NIKKI, WERE YOU?

ABSOLUTELY.

JUST THE IDEA THAT HE'S SITTING SIX ROWS BACK WATCHING THE SHOW.

I CAN'T IMAGINE FOR HIM WHAT IT MUST FEEL LIKE TO HAVE SUCH REVERENCE PLACED UPON YOU.

I MEAN, HE HAD SO MANY WAYS OF DEFLECTING IT WITH JOKES AND STORIES AND ANECDOTES.

BUT IT WAS -- YOU KNOW, TO SEE HIM AFTER THAT EVENING AT THE PREVIEW, HE CAME BACK INTO THE LOBBY AND WE ALL WENT AND HUNG OUT WITH HIM THERE.

WHAT A GREAT -- RIGHT?

WHAT HAPPENED IS WE ALL SURROUND HIM, AND WE'RE ALL STARING AT HIM, WAITING FOR THE NEXT WORD HE SAYS, AND HERE HE IS TRYING TO KIND OF THROW IT OFF.

BUT HE WAS JUST SO GENEROUS, AND I JUST -- MY MEMORY IS THAT HE WAS SO HAPPY THAT NIGHT.

HE JUST WAS SO --

AND WHAT A GREAT MEMORY TO HAVE OF HIM.

I'VE INTERVIEWED HIM IN THE PAST, BUT HE WAS ALL OF THOSE THINGS YOU SAID.

LET ME ASK YOU A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SHOW ITSELF.

I MENTIONED, IT'S MORE THAN 50 YEARS OLD.

WE HAD NOT SEEN IT BEFORE LAST WEEK.

I HAD SEEN CLIPS OF IT.

OF COURSE WE KNEW THE MUSIC, THE SONDHEIM MUSIC, BUT I WAS STRUCK BY A COUPLE OF THINGS.

ONE OF IT WAS IT JUST SEEMED TO TIMELESS.

DIDN'T SEEM DATED AT ALL.

SOMETIMES YOU SEE A SHOW FROM HALF A CENTURY AGO, YOU SAY, THIS IS WONDERFUL, BUT I CAN TELL IT'S HALF A CENTURY AGO.

WHY DO YOU THINK THIS ONE REMAINS SO TIMELY?

NIKKI, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I THINK ANY WELL WRITTEN PIECE CAN STAND THE TEST OF TIME.

I REFERENCED SHAKESPEARE, BUT WE REMEMBER THE PLAYS FROM HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO.

I THINK IT'S A WELL WRITTEN PIECE, AND NUMBER TWO, WE MADE A FEW WEEKS TO MAKE IT MORE 2020 WITH A FEMALE BOBBY INSTEAD OF A MALE BOBBY, AND WITH THE CELL PHONES AND ALL THE SORTS OF THINGS WE DID TO BRING IT INTO TODAY.

BUT WE CAN'T CHANGE A HUGE AMOUNT AS FAR AS THE WORDS ON THE PAGE.

AT THIS TIME WRITING IS SO GOOD WE'RE ABLE TO MAKE IT WORK FOR TODAY.

YOUR CHARACTER, THE TWO OF YOU IS A LITTLE BIT OF A TWIST FROM THE FIRST ONE IN THAT NIKKI, YOU'RE THE OUT THERE WORKING PART OF THE COUPLE, RIGHT, AND CHRIS, YOU'RE THE HOME.

YOU'VE GOT YOUR SHORTS ON AND POLO SHIRT.

YOU DID A FUNNY THING WITH YOUR SHORTS.

I'LL LEAVE IT AT THAT.

CHRIS, LET ME ASK YOU THIS -- I WAS STRUCK BY HOW FUNNY THIS SHOW IS.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT I EXPECTED, BUT I WAS STRUCK BY HOW FUNNY IT IS.

HAVE YOU GOTTEN THAT REACTION FROM PEOPLE?

YES, I MEAN, AUDIENCES SEEM LIKE -- ARE LAUGHING FROM THE MOMENT WE START ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

TO, LIKE, THE HOME RUNS FROM PATTI LUPONE AT THE END.

IT'S LIKE HAVING THE CLEANUP HITTER KNOCK THE AUDIENCE INTO THE STREET WITH JUST -- IN A DAZE OF GOODNESS.

BUT IT IS SO FUNNY, AND GEORGE FIRTH, I THINK, WAS A BIG PART OF THAT.

JUST SUCH -- THE STORY, I FEEL LIKE IT'S SO TIMELESS BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIPS, IT'S ABOUT FINDING, YOU KNOW, YOUR COMMUNITY, FINDING HOW YOU FIT IN THE WORLD IN THIS CONTEMPORARY WORLD.

AND SO ALL OF THOSE THEMES ARE JUST SO PRESENT NOW.

I MEAN, THERE ARE THINGS THAT WE TALK ABOUT ALL THE TIME.

WE'RE ALL STILL GOING THROUGH IT.

WITH NIKKI AND I, IT'S FUN.

MY CHARACTER WAS ORIGINALLY PLAYED BY A WOMAN, AND THERE ARE SOME TROPES IN THERE WHERE SOME OF THE FEMALE CHARACTERS JUST KIND OF, THE WAY THEY WERE WRITING WERE KIND OF -- THEY WERE DITZY, KIND OF STANDARD SUBURBAN TYPE TROPY CHARACTER.

I DON'T BLAME THEM FOR WRITING THOSE KINDS OF CHARACTERS AT THAT TIME, BUT WE HAVE ALL EVOLVED SO MUCH, SO IT'S FUN TO FLIP IT ON ITS HEAD AND LOOK AT IT THROUGH THOSE ANGLES NOW, WHERE THE IDEA THAT YOU COULD SEE IT AND KIND OF SAY, I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS WAS WRITTEN AT THAT TIME.

IT ALL SEEMS SO -- IT ALL MAKES SENSE.

I WENT BACK TO LOOK AT THE 1971 PRODUCTION, BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE HOW DIFFERENT IT WAS, AFTER I SAW YOU ALL PERFORMING AND I WAS STRUCK BY YOUR CHARACTERS.

THERE ARE SOME OTHER COUPLES THAT THINGS HAVE BEEN FLIPPED AROUND A BIT TO MAKE THEM MORE TIMELY AND MEANINGFUL FOR US.

LET ME COME BACK TO SOMETHING YOU MENTIONED ABOUT THE AUDIENCE.

WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN IN TERMS OF THE AUDIENCE REACTION?

YOU KNOW, GETTING BACK INTO LIVE THEATER AND SEEING THIS?

NIKKI, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN SEEING?

I WAS ACTUALLY PRETTY SURPRISED.

I THOUGHT AWAY AUDIENCE FULL OF PEOPLE MASKED, ARE THEY GOING TO NOT RESPOND AS MUCH?

ARE THEY GOING TO SCREAM AND CLAP AND DO ALL THOSE THINGS?

IT'S BEEN PRETTY NORMAL OF AN EXPERIENCE AS FAR AS PERFORMING AND GETTING THE REACTION FROM THE AUDIENCE, WHICH HAS BEEN REALLY GREAT.

WE HAVE BEEN LUCKY TO HAVE REALLY FULL HOUSES LATELY, AND THEY SEEM TO REALLY BE ENJOYING IT.

AND WE HAVE BEEN GETTING LOT OF POSITIVE FEEDBACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA, SO IN THAT WAY, I FEEL LIKE BROADWAY REALLY IS BACK AND WE FOUND A WAY TO SURVIVE IN THIS PANDEMIC.

CHRIS, I MENTIONED WHEN WE WERE TALK BEFORE WE STARTED THIS, THE PERFORMANCE WE SAW LAST WEEK WAS A MATINEE, AND LITERALLY AS THE CURTAIN CAME UP, THE CROWD WENT CRAZY.

NOBODY HAD STEP ON THE STAGE.

THE CROWD JUST WENT CRAZY.

AND THE SENSE WAS, IT'S BACK.

WE'RE BACK.

YOU'RE ALL BACK.

YEAH.

THERE'S AN IMPLIED -- I BELIEVE THERE'S LIKE A -- IT FEELS LIKE THIS IMPLIED DIALOGUE BETWEEN THOSE OF US WHO ARE PRESENTING THE EVENING OF ENTERTAINMENT AND THOSE WHO ARE WATCHING IT THAT WE ARE DOING SOMETHING INSPITE OF.

YOU KNOW, WE'RE ALL KIND OF -- SO SO THERE'S THIS MOMENT WHEN WE START THAT I FEEL LIKE THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF A CELEBRATION OF THE FACT THAT WE'RE ACTUALLY DOING THIS THING TOGETHER.

BECAUSE THAT'S THE THEATER.

THE THEATER IS TOGETHER.

IT'S LIVE.

IT'S NEVER THE SAME ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT, AND YOU MAKE THE CONTRACT WITH EACH OTHER THAT WE'RE GOING TO SIT HERE TWO AND A HALF HOURS, MAYBE LONGER -- JUST A TAD LONGER -- AND WE'RE ALL GOING TO KIND OF MAKE THIS CONTRACT TOGETHER THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE THIS EXPERIENCE TOGETHER.

REALLY YOU DO AS AN ACTOR HAVE A -- YOU'RE HAVING AN EXPERIENCE, THE AUDIENCE IS HAVING AN EXPERIENCE AND SHARE IT.

IT HAPPENS, AND IT -- IT HAPPENS.

I WISH WE HAD MORE TIME TO TALK.

AS YOU SAID, THEATER IS WHAT WE LOOK TO IN TIME OF OUR LIVES WHEN WE NEED MEANING AND NEED HELP, AND THAT'S WHAT THIS SHOW DOES.

SO ONCE AGAIN, IT'S COMPANY, IT'S BRILLIANT.

IT'S AT THE BERNARD JACOBS THEATER.

IT'S 'COMPANY'. THANKS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US.

YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

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