Jeff Lunden | WAMC

Jeff Lunden

Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater in New York, knows firsthand about the coronavirus. Eustis was hospitalized with COVID on March 10, and by the time he was released five days later, everything was shut down. "I came out into a world that had no theater, and it's a different world," he says.

Playbill, the program magazine given out at theaters, has been around for 136 years. It's not just a program, it's a cherished souvenir. "It has become kind of the best memento of your night out at the theater," says Alex Birsh, the company's vice president.

But with theaters on Broadway and across the country shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Playbill is just one of the many companies servicing the performing arts that has had to adapt.

Tall and lanky, Nick Cordero played a variety of tough guys on Broadway – a 1920s gangster in Bullets Over Broadway, an abusive husband in Waitress, and a mobster who takes a young boy under his wing in the musical version of Chazz Palmantieri's A Bronx Tale. He died on Sunday at the age of 41, his wife, Amanda Kloots, announced on Instagram.

Before everything shut down, there were already jitters. An usher tested positive for coronavirus, actors were no longer taking selfies at stage doors and on March 12, one hour before a matinee of Moulin Rouge: The Musical!, the company held an emergency meeting, says actor Danny Burstein.

"They said that somebody in our cast was currently at the doctor's suffering symptoms of COVID-19 and that they were canceling the show," he recalls.

When states and municipalities across the country began banning large gatherings, theaters — from regional stages to Broadway — shut down. But, in a creative solution to a difficult problem, some theaters made archival videos of the closed productions available online, for the cost of a ticket.

In March, the American Conservatory Theater, or A.C.T., in San Francisco had a new play on its main stage called Toni Stone. It was about a female ballplayer in the Negro Leagues.

Broadway shut down in March for what it thought would be a month, but with New York at the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and with guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and the New York governor Andrew Cuomo, theaters will now remain shut until at least June 7th. The announcement was made on Wednesday morning by the Broadway League, an organization of theater owners and producers.

Hippos can get hungry. Very hungry. So when zoos shut their doors to the public because of the coronavirus, zookeepers keep showing up to work to make sure everyone is fed.

Jenna Wingate feeds Fiona, the Cincinnati Zoo's 3-year-old, 1,300-pound hippo. Fiona was born premature, and Wingate has been looking after her since two hours after she was born.

To stem the spread of coronavirus, New York's major cultural institutions announced they would be suspending performances or closing their doors, beginning Thursday.

This August will mark 100 years since women won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. To celebrate, the New York Philharmonic has commissioned compositions by 19 women for an initiative it calls Project 19, which had its first concert earlier this month.

Legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman has died. The author of the hit musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles was 88.

Publicist Harlan Boll said Herman was taken to a Miami hospital Thursday night complaining of chest pain and later died of pulmonary complications.

The title of Jerry Herman's autobiography was Showtune, and if there ever was a Broadway composer who wrote good, old-fashioned, hummable show tunes, it was Jerry Herman.

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Broadway is coming off a record-breaking season, in terms of attendance and box office receipts. But this weekend and next weekend, five musicals, representing an investment of $95 million, will close.

Broadway attendance was up 14% between 2018 and 2019, generating $1.83 billion in ticket sales. But not everyone has been invited to the party, says Jeremy Gerard, who has covered Broadway as a reporter and critic for over three decades.

"It's been a great year for Broadway, and that's true if you're one of the producers of a blockbuster show on Broadway," he says.

The musical theater director and producer Hal Prince, winner of an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards, has died in Iceland after a brief illness. He was 91.

Prince worked on such major shows as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and The Phantom of the Opera. But he was always looking forward to the next show, regardless of how the last one turned out.

In 1965, composer John Kander was working on a show that Prince produced called Flora, The Red Menace — and it was not going well.

June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of an event that proved to be a catalyst for a simmering gay-rights movement. On that day in 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Now a new opera, Stonewall, at the New York City Opera, dramatizes that historic moment.

The scores of Be More Chill, Beetlejuice, Hadestown, The Prom, To Kill a Mockingbird and Tootsie are all up for Tony Awards at the 73rd annual awards show.

Trustees of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) announced the evening of May 24 that they will apply to the U.S. Treasury for a reduction in member benefits, due to the AFM-EPF's "critical and declining" status – meaning the fund is projected to run out of money in 20 years. The AFM represents 80,000 professionals in the United States and Canada who play in symphony orchestras and opera houses, on Broadway, in film and television, and on studio recordings.

The 2018-2019 Broadway season hurtled to a close, with 14 plays and musicals opening in March and April, before the Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning. And some of the late entries into the race were handsomely rewarded.

Rupert Murdoch is arguably the most powerful man in media today. But in 1969 — before he owned Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and newspapers and networks around the world — he was a hungry 38-year-old, looking to break into London's newspaper establishment. A new Broadway play called Ink chronicles those years.

Editor's note: This story includes language that some may find offensive.

It was 1968. But playwright Mart Crowley felt he had to write what he knew.

"Nobody wanted the play," Crowley says. "Not even agents wanted to look at this play. They just thought it was pornographic and it was outrageous."

What he wrote in The Boys in the Band was a thinly veiled slice of autobiographical fiction. A group of gay friends gather for a raucous birthday party; by the end of the evening, secrets are spilled, tears are shed.

One of the oldest and most distinguished Spanish language theaters in the U.S. is housed in a converted Manhattan brownstone. "It started actually as a private house," explains Robert Federico, executive producer of Repertorio Español.

The space is tiny — rickety wooden stairs lead backstage and small props are stored in the hallway. The sets are designed to be stashed flush against walls behind black curtains.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility is not the sort of place you'd expect to find a flourishing music community, but a workshop run by Carnegie Hall offers inmates the ability to learn in harmony. Twice a month, artists from New York City travel to Sing Sing and spend a day giving 30 inmates enrolled in the Musical Connections program formal training.

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Several years ago, Claire van Kampen was composing music for a London theater production. During a break, one of the singers asked her if she knew the story of Farinelli, the famous 18th century opera singer.

"'You'd really like the bit where he goes to Spain and sings to King Phillipe who has this bipolar disorder.' And then I started to think: Now that's an interesting story that I haven't heard about, seen."

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We Shall Not Be Moved is a new opera that takes its name from both the old spiritual-turned-civil-rights anthem and the Philadelphia black liberation group, MOVE. That group might be best-remembered for a 1985 tragedy: A police helicopter bombed the MOVE house, and the resulting fire killed 11 people and destroyed 62 homes in the neighborhood.

The opera, presented by Opera Philadelphia with the Apollo Theater, had its world premiere Sept. 16. It revisits that house and its ghosts, while remaining centered on stories about young people in Philadelphia today.

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One of the ingredients a successful Broadway show needs is a talented cast. That starts with talented casting directors, the people who can see a Tony-winning star in the making, say, when a performer walks into an audition as a college student named Audra McDonald.

Russian, American and French ballet dancers are gathering Thursday night for a bit of cultural diplomacy at New York City's Lincoln Center. They're celebrating the 50th anniversary of George Balanchine's masterpiece Jewels, considered the first full-length, nonnarrative ballet.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee has been in the news a lot lately. Albee died in 2016, and since then his estate has turned down a multi-racial production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and put his contemporary art collection up for auction for an estimated $9 million.

Creating a hit musical which appeals to family audiences is kind of Broadway's holy grail — think current long-running shows, like The Lion King and Wicked, which have run for decades, or earlier shows like Cats and Annie. Critics don't always give these shows good reviews, but that doesn't seem to matter much. Now, two new musicals are aiming to get the kid stamp of approval.

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