EXCLUSIVE: Despite recent, scattered press reports suggesting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was snubbing Broadway by shutting the industry out of his New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board, the state and the theater industry are working closely on how to re-start, Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, tells Deadline.
“We are completely aligned with his thinking,” St. Martin said of Cuomo, noting that the League is “deeply grateful” for the governor’s leadership “on this critical matter.”
According to St. Martin, the League is in ongoing touch with the two advisers heading Cuomo’s pandemic efforts, Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow. Former aides of the governor most recently working in the private sector – Cohen is an executive at MacAndrews & Forbes Inc., Mulrow at The Blackstone Group – the two were tapped last month to chair the New York Forward advisory board.
The advisory board is made up of more than 100 business, community and civic leaders throughout the state, and is tasked with helping guide the state’s re-opening process “as we work towards a new normal,” in the governor’s words.
Said St. Martin, “We are in touch with Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow who have made it clear that NY Forward will be working closely with the Broadway community.”
Cuomo reportedly has sought the advice of theater producer Scott Rudin and theater owner James L. Nederlander with regard to Broadway’s eventual re-opening, though neither of those two industry veterans were listed as part of the New York Forward advisory board last month. The board includes reps from such far-flung industries, organizations and businesses as Spotify, YWCAs of Elmira, MetLife, New York Yankees, Con Edison, Fordham University, the Buffalo Urban League, United Way of Greater Rochester, Goldman Sachs, Ford Foundation, Tribeca Enterprises and Harlem’s Sylvia’s Restaurant.
The Broadway League president tells Deadline that Cuomo has instead encouraged the theater industry to develop its own protocols necessary to re-open the Broadway and Off Broadway venues that have been dark since March 16. Last week, Actors’ Equity Association executive director Mary McColl told Deadline that the union, for its part, was doing just that: Equity hired safety consultant David Michaels, former administrator of OSHA under President Barack Obama, to advise on the development of protocols necessary for reopening.
Both the League – the organization representing theater owners and producers – and the city’s theatrical unions, including Equity, are thought to be giving special and immediate focus at the moment on the financial toll being taken on the industry’s theater workers. The extension of unemployment insurance for actors, for example, and various tax relief plans are among the top priorities.
The absence of recognizable Broadway players on the board led to some speculation of hard feelings between Cuomo and the theater industry following Cuomo’s very public dismissal last month of what he seemingly mistakenly thought were Broadway’s plans to re-open on June 7. Asked by a reporter about the June target at a press briefing last month, Cuomo said, “I wouldn’t use what Broadway thinks as a barometer of anything unless they’re in the public health business and have seen better numbers and models.”
St. Martin later told Deadline that the reporter’s question was misinformed, and that the June 7 date was never intended for re-opening but rather had been announced as the point up to which the industry was then exchanging and refunding tickets.
Most estimates put Broadway’s re-opening at September, earliest.