Anne Grossman and Jennifer Rockwood rushed into the August Wilson Theater on Broadway shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday and, under their face masks, smiled.
They had shown their proof of vaccination, passed through metal detectors and, walking down the hall, marveled at being back in a theater. “It’s exciting,” Grossman said, “and a little unsettling.”
The two women, both 58-year-old New Yorkers, were among 1,055 people who braved concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant in order to, once again, see a play on Broadway. It was the first performance of Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s “Pass Over”, which is the first play performed on Broadway since the coronavirus pandemic closed theaters in March 2020.
“I wanted to be a part of the live theater reboot. Rockwood said.
The play, both comical and thought-provoking, tells the story of two black men trapped under a lamppost, fearing that if they dared to leave their corner, they could be killed by a police officer.
The crowd, vaccinated and masked but not socially distanced, were delighted, greeting Nwandu’s arrival with a standing ovation, and another when she and the play’s director, Danya Taymor, took to the stage after the play to kiss them. three actors.
The night has been important, not only as Broadway seeks to bounce back from a historic shutdown, but also because it seeks to address the renewed concerns about racial fairness that have been raised over the past year. . “Pass Over” is one of seven black writers’ plays slated to star on Broadway this season, and like many of them, it directly addresses issues of race and racism.
Customers expressed a mixture of emotions. “I’m a little nervous about being in a theater setting, because I haven’t been in this type of setting since the start of the pandemic, but a lot of precautions have been taken, and it gives a certain level of comfort, ”said LaTasha Owens, 45. , from New York. “But it’s timely and interesting, so I can’t wait to be back.”
After the play was over, hundreds of people gathered for a block party on West 52nd Street outside the theater, chatting and dancing while a DJ played music and urged, “If you had a good time. , I need to hear everyone say ‘Go on It’s over right now!
Nwandu addressed the crowd from a balcony above the theater marquee, saying she felt like “Black Evita!” “Do you know how crazy it is to write a play about a plague and then experience a plague?” ” she asked. Later, she added, “Thank you all for getting vaccinated and thank you for celebrating the joy of black people.”
The play isn’t the first Broadway show since the pandemic began: “Springsteen on Broadway,” a cover of a Bruce Springsteen concert, began performances on June 26, and there were a few special events. and performances filmed in theaters since the stop. But the return of traditional theater is an important step for the industry; the start of “Pass Over” will be followed on September 2, if all goes as planned, by the revival of two musicals, “Hadestown” and “Waitress”, then on September 14, five shows are expected to begin, including comedies musical “Hamilton”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.