On March 12, it will officially be a full year since the entertainment venues in New York City shut down. Although multiple industries closed practically overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be argued that no industry was as heavily impacted as the entertainment industry has been. I remember all the buzz leading up to Six: The Musical's opening on March 12,2020, only for all of Broadway to be put on hold.
We've all been craving normalcy and the promise of the return of live entertainment has appeared only as a distant light at the end of a very long tunnel. As someone who's worked in the entertainment industry, it was absolutely devastating to watch so many friends suddenly be out of work. On top of everything going on the world, we had to watch our livelihood grind to a screeching halt. After nearly a year of waiting, NYC has announced the NY PopsUp Initiative.
NY PopsUp launched on February 20 with a tribute to New York's community of health care workers. The performance featured performances by Jon Batiste, Ayodele Casel, and Anthony Ross Costanzo. The expanded festival will conclude Labor Day Weekend. The climax of the Festival will be the Tribeca Film Festival from June 9- 20.
On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that New York's theaters and smaller entertainment venues will reopen to facilitate pop-up performances. Entertainment venues can begin hosting audiences starting on April 2 at 33% capacity or with 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors. If COVID-19 testing measures are taken, venues can host 150 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.
Select Broadway theaters will begin participating with NY PopsUp, with the Music Box Theater being the first to open its doors. Although Broadway shows can't officially resume performances until at least May 30, the opening of theaters for pop-up events will bridge the gap from no theater to theater aplenty. in an official press release, the initiative stated the shows will "serve as Broadway's own pilot program that will increase audience size over time."
N't Pops Up will feature over 300 events across the city and state. The events will feature multiple performing arts disciplines and intends to "revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens through the energy of live performance." Zack Winokur is the head of programming, and artists are chosen through artist recommendations. The goal of the initiative is to form a wide coalition of artists to bring live arts back to the streets of New York in a guerilla way that people can just stumble up on.
Other than the main events, the initiative doesn't have a set schedule. If you're looking to find one of the PopsUp events, you can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. All of the events are free and will happen in every corner of every borough. You can find events at transit stations, parks, museums, fire escapes, storefronts, and more! Although the events are free, the artists are all paid which is absolutely incredible.
Ahead of the first performances in Broadway houses, the New York State Department of Health and NY PopsUp are working closely with theater operators to create a safety plan for each building.
The initiative is being produced by Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal. The council for NY PopsUp includes Kyle Abraham, Jon Batiste, Ayodele Casel, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Jeremy O. Harris, Raja Feather Kelly, Mimi Lien, Wynton Marsalis, Claudia Rankine, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Chris Thile, and Whitney White.
The current lineup of performers includes Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Billy Porter, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patti Smith and Mandy Patinkin according to Cuomo.
The return of entertainment began its testing phase by allowing up to 7,000 fans attend Buffalo Bills games at the outdoor football stadium. As of February 23, large entertainment venues with an audience capacity of over 10,000 people were given the green light to open at a limited capacity. Now that large venues are opening, the door has been opened to allowing small venues to bounce back as well.
As the initiative navigates the future reopening of entertainment venues on a larger scale, we will begin to get an idea of what to expect when we sit in an audience again. Cuomo has mentioned requiring a negative test for admission to an event on top of audience caps. “The overall effort is headed towards reopening with testing. And we’re going to be smart, but also aggressive about it.” As long as all safety protocols were signed off, “You can open a Broadway stage with a set percentage of occupants, where people have tested prior to walking into that Broadway theater.”
For now, New Yorkers will have to savor these pop-up events. After no live performances for a year, I think everyone will be excited to stumble upon one of these incredible events. It's nice to finally have some good news.