As we prepare to announce our 2020–21 Broadway at the Ordway season next week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to talk about our season while the theater is dark.
I remember how I felt the first time I walked into the Ordway to see a Broadway show. An elegantly dressed man in a top hat opened the door and welcomed me like I was a guest in his home. When I think about visiting the Ordway now, I feel that same excitement, but I also feel intense pangs of concern. I’m concerned for the safety and well-being of our audience, the Ordway staff, and those roving bands of artists, craftspeople and technicians who make magical things happen on Ordway stages. We’re all separated now out of necessity, but coming together again is also a necessity.
With so many people coping with such pressing concerns right now, it is appropriate to ask: Is live theater necessary? It’s natural think of this as an either-or proposition. But is it? Concern for the safety and well-being of others and hoping and longing for those cherished, sparkling moments when we can gather with our family, friends, and neighbors in places like the Ordway, are innate and primal impulses. They are both markers of our humanity. Both impulses require our attention and imagination. They are both necessary.
There are only a few of us remaining on the job at the Ordway and we’re all doing everything we can to reopen as soon as possible, yearning for the day when we can tip our hat and greet you with a smile as you walk in our front door. We’re not unlike Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts, the devoted servants in Beauty and the Beast, walking through darkened corridors of the castle with only the flame of Lumière’s candlestick hands to light their way. Like them, we’re all hoping for the day when the spell on our house is lifted so you can be our guests again. (Spoiler alert: Beauty and the Beast is our holiday musical for 2020). With each passing day, Lumière, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts are more in danger of becoming inanimate objects: a candelabra, a teapot, a mantle clock. They are in danger of losing their humanity. And, if we can’t gather with loved ones to experience the enduring, ineffable magic that is live performance, we’d be in danger of losing our humanity too.
Let’s all continue to do whatever we can to help those in need. And let’s also engage our imagination and hope for better days ahead, when we can welcome you back to the Ordway. Imagine the noisy, excited buzz pouring from the lobby as you walk through the front door. Imagine how you’ll feel as you settle into that comfortable velvet seat and hold hands with the loved one next to you, reveling in the immediate bonding that happens in an audience—that nothing-else-like-it-signature-joy of a group of people about to experience a live performance. The lights will dim, the overture will play and you’ll hear a voice greeting you with an adorable French accent: “Ma chère Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride, and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight…” That sound is Lumière and his fellow candlesticks, and let’s not forget the flatware and the dishes. They are all singing “Be our guest!” That is the indispensable, and yes, necessary sound of all of us, back at the Ordway, together again.
We will announce our 2020–21 Broadway at the Ordway season next week. Please consider subscribing to celebrate the enduring magic that is live theater. Rod Kaats
Producing Artistic Director