New York to Bring Back Live Theater Through a Series of 300 Pop-up Shows With Hugh Jackman, Billy Porter, Sarah Jessica Parker, and More
The state's new initiative, NYPopsUp, will feature surprise live shows with Hugh Jackman, Billy Porter, Renée Fleming, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patti Smith, and Kenan Thompson.
The bright lights of Broadway have been dimmed for nearly 11 months, but there may be a glimmer of hope in the distance. At his press conference on Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo detailed a plan to safely rev up the state's performing arts industry that has been dark since March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
"When you shut down Broadway, when you shut down movie theaters, you stop an entire industry," he explained at the conference, shared in a video by ABC7 Eyewitness News. "Everybody understands why, but we have to now nurture that industry to bring it back. It is vital for our cities to survive. The arts industry workers — many of them have been out of work since March. So, we're going to accelerate that reopening with 300-plus pop-up art events all across the state — 300 events in 100 days of pop-up performances."
The initiative, called NYPopsUp, is an "expansive festival" that will "permeate the daily lives of New Yorkers" to "revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens through the energy of live performance," the official site describes.
To catch the free live performances, New Yorkers will simply need to be in the right place at the right time. "They are not designed to be prescheduled and draw a crowd because we actually don't want the crowd," Cuomo explained, adding that they'll all then be shown online on social media. "We're trying to thread the needle — we want the performances, we don't want mass gatherings, we don't want large crowds, so pop-up performances that will surprise people and bring the arts back."
While New York City might be the heart of the Great White Way, NYPopsUp will feature live shows all over the Empire State, and has already drawn major star power, including Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Gavin Creel, Renée Fleming, Hugh Jackman, Larry Owens, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Porter Q-Tip, Patti Smith, and Kenan Thompson.
Despite the unannounced nature of the programming, Cuomo did reveal that the first performance will be held on Feb. 20 at the Javits Center as a tribute to the healthcare workers, though he didn't specify who or what the show would be. The lineup for opening weekend does include Jon Batiste, Ayodele Casel, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Cecile McLorin Salvant, with performers traveling around New York City, including a procession from Walt Whitman Park to Golconda Skate Park in Brooklyn. That Sunday, Garth Fagan's company will perform at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Magic Spell Studios as a tribute for the staff there.
The hope is that if these pop-up shows are successful, they'll migrate to larger venues — like The Shed, Apollo, Harlem Stage, La Mama, and The Glimmerglass Festival's Alice Busch Opera Theater — during the course of the NYPopsUp run through Labor Day.
While Broadway has been closed, many performers have turned on virtual platforms, like Broadway Plus, where fans can book voice or dance lessons, a video message, or a chat with cast members from shows like "Dear Evan Hansen," "Hamilton," "Les Misérables," "Rent," "The Phantom of the Opera," and more. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS also launched a COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund to help theater workers during the shutdown, and Lin-Manuel Miranda launched a line through his brand TeeRico to benefit the fund with a trademark sweatshirt bearing the 10036 zip code for Broadway.