I opened the New York Times last week and turned to the theater section and read the headline:
“Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Tina’ to End Their Broadway Runs
“The musicals, both of which lost steam after the pandemic shutdown, will close in late summer.”
The article pointed out that before the pandemic Evan Hansen was making $1 million a week in sales but now, because of Covid, successful plays were again falling by the wayside. Tina, about the life and music of Tina Turner also had been doing very well.
Over the last two years, as I watched New York theaters close and reopen and struggle to sell tickets, this kind of news had become the soundtrack of my life. I was used to it by now.
I turned to check my email and noticed an email from Mind the Art Entertainment (MTAE), the producers for my play The Grace of God & the Man Machine, scheduled to open off-Broadway on November 21. It read:
It is with great sadness that I announce that I, as Founder and Resident Artistic Director of Mind The Art Entertainment, have formally submitted a recommendation to our Board to close our company after 15 years.
Producing in NYC is no longer viable for us after so many losses related to the pandemic, including 6 cancelled/closed back to back productions.
This can not be happening!
Almost two years after the remarkable success of a Onaje — my 90-minute one-act at FringeNYC in October of 2018 — after MTAE became its producer, and after several rewrites and three professional table reads lead by dramaturg/ director Kevin R. Free, we had a two-act play with an explosive finish. It ran fast and smooth like a river to a waterfall. We were ready.
Then, after that last table read in March of 2020, the pandemic hit and we all had to wait but we were ready.
In October of 2021, we were surprised and blessed to be offered a virtual trial performance directed by Van Dirk Fisher at the Reliant Theater, who was doing cutting-edge online productions to expansive theater-starved online audiences. It was well received.
We were so ready and this play was perfect for the politics of its time. Its time was now.
Early this year, it appeared that New York theater was opening up, and MTAE booked Theater Row for November to open a week-and-a-half after the midterm elections. That would be perfect.
Now, after almost four years of anticipation and preparation, we have a road-tested redemptive two-act play, rich with true American characters, timed to be performed in November after the midterm elections, but Covid variations were again on the rise.
And just like that, it is over.
The producers sent heartbroken apologies to everyone and have even offered to transfer the off-Broadway lease at Theatre Row free to support a new producer, but it will be next to impossible to mount the play unless a new team is in place by the end of this month.
Yes, I am heartbroken.
But throughout my whole life, I have been blessed by the opportunity provided by crossroads and disasters.
If you are a professional producer for New York theater, or if you know someone who is, just let them know I’m not dead yet and I would be happy to send them the script — but two weeks may not be enough time. (You can click the Contact link in the menu.)
Yes, I know it is almost impossible. But as Hamlet says, “the readiness is all.”