Seats Are Open, But So Are The Doors For More Diverse Stories

On Friday one of my colleagues at work is flying to NYC to see Springsteen on Broadway, the show that re-opened earlier than pretty much all the others. She purchased the tickets months ago when they first went on sale.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear most people share her level of optimism. A CNBC story reported that even the most popular titles are seeing very soft sales.

Although tickets have been on sale for months, neither “Wicked” nor “The Lion King” – the top two highest-grossing musicals in history – sold out their first week of performances. “Hamilton,” which historically sold out months of performances within minutes, also has plenty of opening week availability. Between September 14, 2021, and June 5, 2022, only one performance of “Hamilton″ is sold out.

A Forbes article projects some potential doom and gloom for the production of the show Pass Over, which has been getting a lot of great press. In fact, there is a suggestion in a couple articles that they moved up the date of their opening to last Sunday in order to take advantage of the the good press they have received.

This is somewhat unfortunate for the production of Pass Over because in addition to the high quality and expectations, there are a lot of good portents associated with the show. For one, it is the first show by a Black playwright to appear in the August Wilson Theatre since the venue was named for the esteemed Black playwright in 2005. (A lot of “about time” comments on social media noting that it took 15 years for that to happen).

According to a Reuters piece, Pass Over is among a number of upcoming shows which are being supported by first time Black investors.

However, seven new plays have been announced for this fall, all by Black writers. Some are being financed by first-time Broadway investors, including co-founder of television network BET, Sheila Johnson, who is putting money behind the play “Thoughts of a Colored Man.” Johnson and celebrity chef Carla Hall are also investing in a new musical called “Grace” about Black culinary history.

Actor Blair Underwood and former basketball player Renee Montgomery are investing in the stage play “Pass Over”, a modern twist on “Waiting for Godot.”

“There is various new money that is coming into Broadway, and that money is extraordinarily helpful and it is also diverse money, which is also very interesting and new,” said Brian Moreland, producer of “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” opening in October.

Whether we like it or not, money has a big influence in terms of what stories get told so this can be a positive indication for greater representation in whose stories get told and who is involved in telling those stories.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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