Karen Slack

Karen Slack wears dress by Rosie Assoulin

Live from New York

The lights stayed out on Broadway for four hundred and sixty-nine days, from the announcement of a full-scale closure of the industry just ninety minutes before curtains were scheduled to rise on March 12, 2020, until Bruce Springsteen welcomed an audience back to the St. James Theatre on 44th Street on June 26 earlier this year. At Lincoln Center, the shutdown lasted even longer, as the campus shut its doors for over eighteen months before finally inviting guests inside this September. Across New York, numerous comedy clubs, jazz dens, drag bars, off-off-Broadway spaces, concert venues, dance studios, and gilded theaters suffered the same fate, as a city celebrated for its cultural offerings went unprecedentedly silent.

Autumn in New York is always a season of openings, revivals, introductions, and reinventions after the summer lull, but this year the return carries much greater significance. After performers, creators, and other artists have suffered through a year and a half of unemployment, often with scant support from the government or anyone else, this fall marks a moment of tenuous hope. Despite the rise of the Delta variant, vaccinated attendees are once again crowding together to sing, to laugh, to dance, to applaud, and above all to be moved. The risk that now comes with breathing the same air as others has become inextricable from the ecstasy it brings and the emotion it incites—a reminder that no pleasure is without its risks, but that a life without risk also brings little pleasure.

As the city’s gradual reopening continues, it is impossible to calculate the losses we have endured—the talents who have died, the companies that have shuttered, the establishments that have closed their doors, the many who were forced to abandon their creative pursuits for more “stable” careers. But at this moment, as in all times of tragedy, the power of art remains in its ability to inspire and uplift. After over a year away, we hope that we can return to the stage with a new perspective on the role the arts can and must play in building a better future, refreshed and renewed by the prospect of effecting change and opening minds to more diverse voices and perspectives while supporting those with fewer resources. What will change and what will remain? Live performance in New York will never again be exactly like it was before, and that is something to celebrate.

Read this story and many more in print by preordering our Fall issue here. See the full Live in New York series here.

Hair by Tina Outen at Streeters. Makeup by Andrew Colvin at Streeters. Set design by Jacob Burstein at MHS Artists. Photographer's assistant: Kyrre Kristoffersen. Stylist's assistants: Maria Montane and Malén Denis. Hairstylist's assistant: Amesha Alston. Makeup artist's assistant: Crisdanil Hidalgo. Set designer's assistant: Casilda Garcia Lopez. Digital technician: Leslie Knott. Production by Heather Robbins at CLM.

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