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Snow, Shows Must Go On

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The snow went on…and on…in New York City through last weekend, piling up from a foot to 18 inches, depending on where one waded or sledded through it.

But Broadway stuck to the old adage "The show must go on," with all 31 productions in full swing both Saturday and Sunday.

"All shows performed on their regular schedules," said Alan Cohen, press spokesperson for the League of American Theatres and Producers, on Monday.

Asked if the blizzard affected attendance, Cohen said by e-mail, "We wouldn't know that information right away."

Cohen said it appeared that actors weren't hindered from showing up, despite the sweep of flakes and blasting wind.

"Most of the performers anticipated the storm, so they were put up by the shows or made their own arrangements," he said.

Maria Somma, press spokesperson for Actors' Equity Association, said she attended the Sunday night performance of "Little Women" at the Virginia Theatre on West 52nd Street. "The performance was full except for 17 seats," she reported by phone on Monday. "I understood that those were people coming in from Florida, but because of the flight delays, that didn't happen."

More than 1,200 flights were cancelled over the weekend at the metropolitan area's three airports.

Somma also agreed with the League's assessment of performers, saying her survey showed that actors and stage managers had no problem making it to the theatres.

A spokesperson for Marc Routh, president of the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers, said Monday that Routh received no reports of shows closing over the weekend. The Off-Broadway league doesn't keep track of attendance at its members' theatres and so had no seating numbers to share. Jeffrey Shubart, the league's administrator, told Back Stage that he also manages the Lucille Lortel Theatre and that its productions went on as usual.

Problems Beyond Bridges

Mark Rossier, development and marketing director for the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, said Monday that the alliance hadn't heard of any cancellations from its member theatres in Manhattan. His organization serves nearly 400 nonprofit theatres and related organizations in New York City. He anticipated that houses might have been smaller due to the weather, but had no definite reports of that. But he suggested speaking to Queens Theatre in the Park, which depends more on cars than subways for audience attendance.

That's when it became obvious that theatres outside Manhattan had experienced problems.

"We did our Saturday matinee, but only had about 100 out of 240 people show up," said Jeff Rosenstock, producing director of Queens Theatre in the Park, on Monday. "So we cancelled Saturday night. On Sunday morning, we cancelled our Sunday matinee."

Rosenstock said he wasn't sure what to do following the Saturday matinee, so he canvassed like facilities:

"I called the Tillis Center out on Long Island, and they had canceled and rescheduled a performance. I called the Emelin in Westchester; they were canceling Saturday night. I even called the McCarter in Princeton, and they had canceled Saturday night."

The Queens theatre is an indoor facility but caters to an older audience, 90% of whom come to the performances by car. So Rosenstock decided that, for the weekend, the show must not go on.

But how does he make a decision that quickly and communicate it to his booked audience?

"We literally brought in the box office staff on Saturday and called everybody," he responded. "Then we took the phone numbers home and called Sunday morning. We got in touch with every single person."

The theatre's next performance goes up on Thurs., Feb. 3, and Rosenstock says they'll be ready. "We're ready today," he said.

Theatre Communications Group has more than 400 member theatres in 47 states. Ben Cameron, TCG's executive director, notified Back Stage on Monday that some theatres had experienced problems, specifically citing Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., which scrapped its weekend performances.

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