Thursday, November 29, 2007

I know how the Tin Man feels

At the end of "The Wizard of Oz," as Dorothy prepares to return to Kansas, she bids farewell to the friends she's made on her journey to the Emerald City. The Tin Man is inconsolable. He says to her, "Now I know I've got a heart because it's breaking."

That's kind of how I've felt over the past 19 days of the stagehands' strike that shut down most Broadway shows. Until April, I'd never been to a show on Broadway and I didn't feel emotionally attached to the place.

Now, six months and 16 shows later, I'm buying original cast recordings, following discussions on theater message boards, checking Playbill, reading other bloggers, writing about Broadway in my blog, reflecting on what I've just seen and thinking about what I want to see next.

Even though I was fortunate that my last trip to New York City took place the weekend before the strike, I've still been following every development in the labor dispute. Like the Tin Man, I realized how much I love Broadway because of how I felt when most of it went dark.

Of course I feel for everyone involved who lost income over the past 19 days, including the small businesses that depend on traffic from Broadway shows, the bartenders and others who were out of work, the people who walked the picket lines, making a fraction of what they usually earn. I feel for the lost weeks of fundraising for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

I know friends and fellow bloggers who had their hearts set on seeing certain shows. I feel for them, and for everyone else who had to leave New York City without seeing the show they were planning to see, who may not even have had a chance to see any Broadway show.

One way in which theater is different from movies or television is that you see the sets, the special effects, up close. And especially on my last theater trip, I was totally amazed at what I saw on stage, and the skill it took to build and maintain it. The sets for "Cyrano" and "August: Osage County" especially are pretty amazing.

I have enormous respect for all the people who work behind the scenes to help ensure that I have a great night at the theater. I realize that the stagehands, and the other union members who supported them, truly felt that they were fighting for themselves and their families' economic well-being. Like everyone else, I just wish the whole thing could have been settled without a strike.

What I've learned over the past 19 days is just how fond I've become of that 10-block piece of real estate in midtown Manhattan and all the stories that are told there every night. With the strike finally over, I'm glad that tonight, all of the curtains will be rising again. I just wish I were going back sometime soon.

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