A social media campaign encouraging shutdown New York City theaters to open their lobbies – and restrooms – to protesters is gaining traction among Manhattan’s Off Broadway venues and spaces in Brooklyn: The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, A.R.T./New York, IRT Theater and Irondale Center are among the first to put out the virtual welcome mats.
The Twitter account Open Your Lobby carries a mission statement on its home page: “In support of #BlackLivesMatter and the many protesters nationwide fighting racism and injustice, we call on theaters to #OpenYourLobby. Do not equate the property violence of protesters to the massive, state-sanctioned violence of policing in America. There is no comparison. Things can be replaced, people cannot.”
The account goes on to offer specific instructions: Open lobby spaces to provide places of rest, and provide water, snacks and first aid; provide bathroom access, Wi-Fi access, outlets for charging phones, hand sanitizer and enough space for social distancing; have an escape exit plan in case of disruption; and do not permit police inside.
“Do not permit police inside of the building for the safety of your protesters. It is unlawful for police to enter without a warrant or unless granted permission. White and non-Black POC, physically stand in front of officers attempting to enter your property and say, ‘I work here and I do not grant you permission to enter. Do you have a warrant?’ Exercise your right to record police interaction.”
The campaign seems to have been inspired by a decision several days ago by the New York Theatre Workshop at 79 E. 4th St. in Manhattan’s East Village, to open its door to protesters during non-curfew hours.
Soon, other Manhattan and Brooklyn venues came aboard. The Public Theater, at 425 Lafayette St. in the East Village, tweeted, “NYC, we hear you. If you are heading out to protest today, our restrooms are open from 2pm to 6pm today, June 3. We will have staff volunteers on had to help facilitate social distancing.” The venue suggests checking back for daily updates.
Playwrights Horizons, an Off Broadway venue at 416 W. 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, writes that it is “Standing in solidarity with those fighting for racial justice,” and “our foyer will be open starting on Friday to offer WiFi, AC, a place to rest/reflect, and any other supplies we may have (PPE, sanitizer, snacks, water) to those who need it.” Hours are noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Other theaters that have signed on include the IRT Theater in Greenwich Village, and, in Brooklyn, Irondale Center and A.R.T./New York. See the tweets below for details. Many of these theaters are in heavily-marched neighborhoods.
Open Your Lobby is encouraging theaters in other cities to join. The Flight Deck theater in Oakland, CA just signed up.