On Saturday, April 3, 2021, NY PopsUp – the statewide initiative to reinvigorate the arts – presented the first performance in more than a year inside a Broadway theater. The special event, which took place at the St. James on West 44th Street, was part of the pilot program as a large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after the prolonged COVID-19 shutdown.
To ensure the health of safety of all attendees, theater artists, and workers, NY PopsUp and the St. James Theatre worked closely with the New York State Department of Health, following all state health and safety protocols. A socially-distanced audience consisting primarily of frontline workers affiliated with The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS watched back-to-back performances by Tony Award winner Savion Glover and three-time Tony winner Nathan Lane, directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks.
Lane performed Playbills, a new monologue by playwright Paul Rudnick about a man laid off from his job, who spent the last year cooped up in his studio apartment, desperately missing his greatest passion of going to the theater. Yearning to be part of an audience again, to experience an event, he shares a true story, which has given him hope for the city, the world, the TKTS booth, and – at long last – a seat on the aisle.
Glover performed a special tap piece reflecting on his lifetime of personal experience in the theater, reminding us of the sacred space that is the stage, and inspiring the audience to consider what Broadway was, what Broadway is, and what Broadway will be again.
Programming for NY PopsUp, which launched on Saturday, February 20, and will run through Labor Day, is curated by interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur, in partnership with a hand-selected council of artistic advisors who represent the diversity of New York’s performing arts scene and artistic communities. Given the surprise impromptu nature of the pop-up format, performances are not generally announced in advance. The St. James performance was livestreamed on the NY PopsUp Instagram feed.