5 Theatrical Things I’m Thankful for THANKS To The Pandemic.

Yes, you got that right.

On this Thanksgiving, I’m going to tell you five things I’m thankful for BECAUSE of the pandemic.

See, I believe that you can always find a blessing, even in the darkest of situations. You just have to look for them. HARD. 🙂

And honestly, that’s how you get through those dark times. Whether it’s a pandemic. Or a show that doesn’t work out the way you had hoped.

You ask yourself . . . what did I learn? How am I better? Stronger? Who did I meet as a result?

And if you do this . . . you’ll always find something . . . and it’ll make the dark time feel not-so-dark.

The pandemic was a hard one to find things to be thankful for, let’s face it. There was so much loss. Of life. Of jobs.

But there are things thanks to it that I believe WILL make the theater smarter, stronger and better.

And here are five!

1. Without stages to perform on, the theater industry went straight to streaming.

And fast. From readings to conferences to full-on shows, TheaterMakers pivoted like point guards for the Knicks, and put their shows on Zoom.

And it worked. And audiences enjoyed them.

And audiences all over the world got to see things they wouldn’t have seen before. And TheaterMakers all over the world were able to show their work to more audiences than ever before.

While the appetite to see streaming theater has gone down since live theater has returned, streaming theater is not going anywhere.

Thanks to the pandemic, it’s another tool we have in our marketing toolbox. And it’s a big one.

2. New voices are emerging on stage.

This fall, 7 new plays by Black Playwrights premiered on Broadway.

With time off, thanks to the pandemic, the theater was able to re-evaluate so much of what it has been doing (and NOT doing), and was able to make some quick corrections. And so many new voices are getting opportunities that they may not have gotten as quickly if it wasn’t for the pandemic.

Now, we have to make sure those quick corrections become long-lasting change . . . with more opportunities for all TheaterMakers.

3. You can make a musical online and become a STAR.

With so much time on their hands (literally), people in the pandemic did a lot of scrolling through social media.

So, when TheaterMakers like Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear, decided to write a musical based on Bridgerton and release it on TikTok, they got a lot of eyeballs.

Same with Daniel Mertzluft and Ratatouille.

(And you’ll also notice that neither of those TheaterMakers got “in trouble” with the rights-holders of those properties – which never would have happened before the pandemic.)

Oh, and both of those TheaterMaking teams are signed with CAA now.

Thanks to the pandemic, there is a new way to get discovered. In fact, I believe the TikTok or Instagram musical is the new concept album . . . and every Composer or Lyricist out there should be putting their stuff out on TikTok.

4. We’re all realizing what’s important.

It has been this strange martyr-like badge of honor for TheaterMakers to work ridiculous hours and ridiculous days in a row.

“It’s the sacrifice we make for our art,” has been our rallying cry.

The pandemic helped us all realize that life is short. And while theater is our lives, theater is just theater. And we need to take care of ourselves. And take care of our families.

There are a lot of wonderful conversations happening right now about how we allow for more flexibility in our schedules. From reducing hours (including examining the 10-out-of-12 rehearsal day during tech), allowing more time off for staff (mine now have flex-schedules with no approval needed for vacation or personal days or where they work), and more.

Sometimes we need a reset to remind us what is important. And the pandemic gave us that a few times over.

5. Hollywood realized how important we are.

The outcry for the lack of the theater during the pandemic was so palpable, that they even heard it in Hollywood.

First came Hamilton, hip-hoppin’ on to Disney+ a full-on year before it was supposed to hit the theaters. Then we got Come From AwayTick Tick Boom is on Netflix. Diana was filmed in their theater. Dear Evan Hansen hit the screens.

While some were more successful than others, when was the last time you saw this much A-list theatrical content on screens? In your home?

I’ll tell you. NEVER.

And that was changed because of the pandemic. We’ll see a bit of a pullback on this phenomenon as well, now that Broadway is back, but I promise you that more “first run” Broadway shows will be coming to a screen REALLY NEAR you more often than before the pandemic.

Those are just five things that changed the theater for the better in the pandemic, and I believe will help the theater not only survive the next hundred years . . . but thrive.

And when I eat my turkey this year, these are just a few of the things I’ll be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Wishing you the happiest of Thanksgivings.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.