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Although there is “a physical need for food,” Thacker – the artistic director of the Gene Frankel Theater (GFT) on Bond Street in NoHo – has said that “there is a spiritual need for theater”. For now, restaurants are operating at full capacity outdoors and 25% indoors, but Off-Off Broadway spaces like the GFT have no official path to follow.
Seeking to find a solution, at least two groups attempt to strike up a conversation with the governor and the mayor.
Eight small theaters, including GFT, La Mama and the Theater for the New City, are involved in a lawsuit brought by Catherine Russell, the general manager of the Theater Center, who is also an actress. These theaters, which have less than 200 seats, hope to open at 25% of their capacity.
At the same time, FAB – the Fourth Arts Block on the Lower East Side – came up with the idea of a safe outdoor performance demonstration, involving many of the most interesting downtown performance venues, including The Clemente, WOW Cafe, KGB and the GFT, among others.
On Saturday afternoon, November 14, members of the public outside 24 Bond St. saw the TFG participate in the event, dubbed “More Ways Than Broad Ways”. The theater rose to the challenge of delivering COVID-safe entertainment by thinking ahead and being prepared, which meant Thacker had his work cut out for him.
“We have hired a COVID Safe Media Specialist,” she said. “Artist arrivals were staggered and everyone wore masks when they weren’t performing and most wore them for performances.”
Microphones were disinfected between acts and doors and windows remained open.
For the performers, who all gave of their time, it was quite gratifying. Nora Burns of the “Unitard” performance group was more than ready to be on stage (or, so to speak, in the window).
After eight months of being sidelined by the pandemic, his first words on stage were: “Oh my God, an audience!”
She later wondered why patrons of the restaurants inside, who spend most of their time without masks, agree, but theatergoers – who have no reason to take theirs off. – are not.
Appearing in a window was, for performance artist Helixx C. Armageddon.
“Better than Zoom! She explained. “I feed off people’s energy, even though they are on the other side of the glass.”
His play, “Seeking Asylum,” was inspired by the plight of people who are trapped at home with domestic abusers, unable to seek help during the pandemic but seeking a safe space.
Between the numbers, which also included Eileen Dover, Alex Sepassi, Yoshiko Chuma and Jorge Clar, dancers Erick Montes, Eiren Shuman and Mark Schmidt provided visual interludes to an original soundtrack created by Paul Alexander. All three wore body paint courtesy of Scooter LaForge, which adorned the human canvases in the window before the performances.
LaForge was also fortunate enough to collaborate with Jorge Clar, as the two created a “psychic portrait” of Thacker, who used his time sitting between them to record the proceedings from a different perspective.
As Clar read the color of his aura and guessed his feelings, he announced his findings to LaForge who took them in broad strokes.
Thacker proclaimed the success of the day, noting that “it went well and the community embraced it!” Continuing, she said that “the government believes that theater is not essential, but that it has a spiritual need for it. It connects us as a group. I feel like restaurants are like an older sibling getting more attention for no good reason. We’re just saying treat each other fairly because we’re just as important.
You can find information about the theater at genefrankeltheatre.com