The Show Must Not Go On: 14 Times Broadway Went Dark

This street is usually really crowded.
This street is usually really crowded.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

On Monday, June 29, the Broadway League announced that all Broadway shows have been canceled for the remainder of the year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Though it’s far from the first time the brilliant lights of the Broadway marquees have gone dark, it’s definitely the longest drought; most of the previous shutdowns lasted no more than a few days or weeks, whereas this one began back on March 12.

It’s also the first time a public health scare is to blame; other culprits include worker strikes, power outages, and inclement weather. While you’re waiting for Broadway’s stars to return to the stage, put on your favorite original cast recording and find out how past shutdowns played out, as compiled by Untapped Cities.

1. The 1919 AEA STrike

Union members protesting in solidarity (and matching hats) in 1919.George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Theater actors had succeeded in creating their own union—the Actors’ Equity Association, or AEA—in 1913, but they hadn’t succeeded in securing certain contract regulations and other workplace standards by the end of the decade. So on August 7, 1919, the AEA organized a strike against the Producing Managers’ Association (PMA). Actors marched through the streets of New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. Broadway performances ceased for a whole month, until the PMA agreed to the union’s requests. The strike came to an official end on September 7, 1919.

2. The 1960 AEA Strike

All was well (enough) in the AEA for the next 40-odd years, but the actors struck again for 11 days in 1960—from June 2 to June 12, 1960—to call for pension improvements. According to The New York Times, restaurants near the theaters suffered anywhere from a 25 to 75 percent decrease in business during the shutdown.

3. The One-Day Walkout of 1964

The 1960s were a tumultuous decade for Broadway actors, who threatened to walk out in June 1964 if their minimum wage wasn’t increased. Negotiations happened fast—resulting in a $12.50 increase in base weekly salary, spread out over four years—so only 16 of the original 27 shows ended up shutting down on the night of June 8, 1964.

4. The 1968 AEA Strike

Midtown strikes in the 1960s interrupted less traffic (because there was less traffic).SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The last strike of the ’60s, which occurred from June 17 to June 21, 1968, was also over wages. The AEA wanted a 54 percent weekly salary increase for all members (plus a shorter contract renewal period and higher pay for actors in traveling shows) to account for the rising cost of living in New York City. After a few days, the organization accepted a 20 percent increase, and performers returned to work immediately.

5. The Broadway Musicians strike of 1975

In 1975, it was Broadway musicians’ turn to demand better pay; 300 of them refused to perform for 25 days—from September 18 to October 13, 1975—after which they reached an agreement with producers for an extra $90 per week over three years.

6. The September 11 break

No Broadway performances occurred following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani was anxious to reopen the theaters both to keep the economic effects of a shutdown to a minimum and to demonstrate the solidarity and strength of the community. Shows went on as planned on September 13, and several culminated with rousing renditions of “God Bless America.”

7. The Virtual Orchestra Backlash of 2003

Broadway performers channeled their creative talents into cheeky signs while on strike in 2007.Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

In 2003, the League of American Theatres and Producers wanted to get rid of orchestra minimums, which mandated that about 25 musicians (depending on the theater) perform live during each show. Instead, several live musicians would be accompanied by “virtual orchestras”—computers with prerecorded music that could be easily adjusted to match singers’ tempos. The backlash was huge, and actors and crew members joined the musicians in a five-day strike from March 7 to March 11, 2003 to oppose the proposal. In the end, the orchestra minimums did get decreased to 18 or 19 live musicians.

8. The Northeast Blackout of 2003

A second round of theater closures hit Broadway in 2003, when a sudden blackout occurred throughout Northeastern America and parts of Canada. The outage affected an estimated 45 million Americans and forced theaters to keep their doors closed on August 14, 2003. When power was restored to most of the Theater District just past noon the following day, producers decided that one night off had been enough and resumed production.

9. The 2007 Stagehand Strike

Stagehands stand their ground on day 10 of the strike.Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Stagehands proved the show could not go on without them by shutting down Broadway for 19 days in 2007—from November 10 to November 29—during which time they negotiated drastically better salaries, overtime pay, and relaxed rules for load-ins (when the crew sets up a new production in a theater).

10. Hurricane Irene Blackout of 2011

One year before Hurricane Sandy ravaged the city, Hurricane Irene struck New York City, forcing theaters to close for a 48-hour period from August 27 to August 28, 2011.

11. Hurricane Sandy Shutdown of 2012

To keep people safe during Hurricane Sandy, city officials closed the subways—and Broadway theaters followed suit. After four days of going dark, from October 28 to October 31, performances began to reopen after Halloween. But lower turnout caused the permanent shutdown of a few shows that fall, including The Performers and Kathie Lee Gifford’s Scandalous.

12. The Blizzard of 2016

New York City was hit with its biggest blizzard in history on January 23, 2016, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned travel and declared a state of emergency. Broadway called off all performances that night—but only that night.

13. The Blackout of 2019

A completely unexpected partial shutdown occurred on July 13, 2019, when a power outage affected more than 20 Broadway theaters on the west side. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, performers from shows like Hadestown and Waitress entertained audiences with impromptu concerts in the streets. Shows like Beetlejuice, Burn This, and Beautiful, which performed on the opposite side of Broadway, were able to go on.

14. THe Coronavirus Closure

On March 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo banned events with more than 500 attendees to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which meant all Broadway performances would need to be immediately canceled. The initial shutdown was scheduled to last until April 12, but officials have prolonged it incrementally as the pandemic continued to devastate the nation. On Monday, June 29, the Broadway League announced all theaters would remain dark through the end of the year, with tentative plans to reopen in early 2021.

[h/t Untapped Cities]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

15 Facts About The 40-Year-Old Virgin On Its 15th Anniversary

Steve Carell is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Steve Carell is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The 40-Year-Old Virgin helped launch Steve Carell into comedy stardom, reintroduced audiences to Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, featured one of Jonah Hill’s first movie roles, and began the Judd Apatow Comedy Filmmaking Empire. In celebration of its 15th anniversary, here are some facts that will make you cooler than David Caruso in Jade.

1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin was based on one of Steve Carell's Second City sketches.

The sketch was about a man who, in trying to keep up in a poker game conversation about sexual experiences, proves to be completely clueless about the subject. After working together on Anchorman, Judd Apatow asked Carell if he had any movie ideas; Carell pitched him the concept for The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the two wrote the film together.

2. Universal Studios provided Steve Carell and Judd Apatow with case studies on middle-age virginity.

They read that older virgins were typically normal people who, according to Carell, "at some point just gave up on the whole notion; it was more difficult to keep attempting than to give up."

3. Steve Carell was 43 years old and a father of two when The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released.

Carell's four-year-old daughter was “a little freaked out” at seeing her father on billboards promoting The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

4. Universal refused to allow Jason Segel to be in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Since Apatow didn’t have veto power back then, Jason Segel was out of luck. However, the incident reinforced Apatow’s advice to Segel that he should be writing his own material for a better chance at starring in films—advice which eventually led to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

5. Steve Carell lost 30 pounds for The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Though Apatow was originally "nervous about it, because I don't think comedians wanting to look good is ever good for the comedy," he gradually realized that Carell being "ripped" was a good idea. Because it helped establish that Andy was only a virgin because he’s shy and nervous, not because of his looks.

6. PAUL RUDD WAS CONSIDERED SO OVERWEIGHT THAT UNIVERSAL SHUT DOWN PRODUCTION FOR TWO DAYS.

Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Unlike most other directors, Apatow encourages Rudd to gain some weight before shooting because he thinks the actor is funnier when he’s a little fatter. Unfortunately, Universal disagreed, and Rudd ended up not eating for 48 hours to satisfy the studio. The one scene that stayed in the film from before the Universal-mandated shutdown was the speed-dating sequence. But there were other reasons for the shutdown: According to Apatow, they didn't like that he was lighting the film "like an indie." Also ...

7. The studio thought Steve Carell looked like a serial killer.

In response, "Steve decided the character would be a little more Buster Keaton-esque," according to Apatow. "He was low-energy and everyone else was spinning around him." Lines were also written (and improvised) making fun of the fact that Andy could be confused for a serial killer.

8. Jane Lynch's "Guatemalan Love Song" in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was from a passage in her high school textbook.

Part of the translation was "Where are you going with such haste? To a football game.” Lynch’s role was originally going to be played by a man, until Steve Carell’s wife, Nancy Walls (who played Maria, the health clinic counselor), suggested Lynch for the part of the store manager.

9. It was Leslie Mann's idea to throw up on Steve Carell's face in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Originally, Nicky (Mann's character) and Andy were supposed to get pulled over by the police, and it would turn out that Nicky was concealing a gun under her seat all along. Instead, Mann insisted that her vomiting on Carell would be a funnier conclusion to the scene, so she gulped down a mix of strawberry yogurt and “some kind of kefir.”

10. The waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was real.

Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

About halfway through the ordeal, Carell was in so much pain that he realized it might have been a bad idea. It took seven weeks for all of his hair to grow back.

11. Judd Apatow and Steve Carell had trouble coming up with the big "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" ending.

Garry Shandling put it in Apatow’s head that it was important to show that Andy is having better sex than his friends because he is in love. Later, Carell came up with the general idea of singing a song, and Apatow immediately thought “Let the Sunshine In” would work.

12. That big musical number sent Jonah Hill to the hospital for heatstroke.

Hill had to be hospitalized.

13. The filmmakers shot 1 million feet of film for The 40-Year-Old Virgin,

The film company bought the cast and crew champagne to celebrate.

14. Test screenings made The 40-Year-Old Virgin less R-rated.

People notably stopped laughing during the scene in which Andy watches porn from Dave’s “Boner Jams ‘03” tape. Two weeks later at another test screening, the new cut featured far less graphic content. Andy overhearing his old neighbors having sex was also cut after poor reactions. Trish’s line about Einstein having sex with his wife was taken out, then put back in once Apatow and Carell realized women liked that line.

15. Exotic fish were accidentally harmed during the making of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

The electricity was shut off in the aquarium area after filming ended, causing a lack of proper aeration in the fish tank, leading to their deaths. The American Humane Association withheld its “no animals were harmed…” disclaimer because of the incident and rated the film “Monitored Unacceptable.”

This story has been updated for 2020.