Stephen Edlund, Broadway Associate Director.
[Interview Date: October 18, 2020]
Broadway: Mrs. Doubtfire, Meteor Shower, Hello, Dolly, A Bronx Tale, Sister Act.
Where were you on March 12, 2020? And what was the week leading up to it like for you?
On March 12th, I was at the Stephen Sondheim Theater preparing for our 4th preview of Mrs. Doubtfire the musical on Broadway. We were right in the thick of making great changes to the piece. Just starting to hit our stride. We had gotten there earlier that day to meet as a creative team, plan for the day’s changes, and had started rehearsing onstage.
As Associate Director, what was it like to begin previews for Mrs. Doubtfire on March 9, 2020 to then have to shut down only a few days later? Did you initially anticipate the shutdown lasting this long?
Devastating. To not be able to do the thing you’re meant to do for a reason totally out of your control? It’s paralyzing. All I could hear in my mind was Zach from A Chorus Line saying, “If today were the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?” I keep replaying the moment when our producer addressed the entire company about what was happening. We were mid-rehearsal, putting in changes for that night when he called everyone to the house to talk to us. And while he spoke, all I could see was one cast member bravely do everything she could to hold back her tears.
What have, you, personally, been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
Walking! My husband and I fell in love with the parks of NYC. We went up and down Manhattan every day. Saw every inch of Central Park. One day we walked 16 miles for a free Krispy Kreme donut. That was a good day.
Has the pandemic altered your priorities during this time? Have you made any life decisions that you wouldn’t have if things had stayed the same?
We bought a house! Our whole life timeline changed. We bought a fixer upper in Massachusetts that needed a lot of love and sweat equity and time. And we have nothing but time right now. And we found we love being out of the city. The city just isn’t the same without its arts and restaurants. That culture is the heartbeat of the city.
How has what’s happening in the world affected your drive to create? Have you felt a stronger urge? A lack of inspiration? Or has it stayed about the same for you?
It comes in waves, doesn’t it? Inspiration and ideas and juices flowing. And then, there’s sort of an existential paralysis that comes next as you realize how far away this thing is from coming back.
What has been the most challenging thing you’ve experienced since the Broadway shutdown?
Motivation. On every level.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
We changed our life. And are making it better by doing something that’ll bring us joy for the rest of our lives.
What is your biggest concern right now?
What do you miss the most about theatre/your job/the arts?
What’s your favorite theatre memory?
Getting my first Broadway job offered to me in a DMV parking lot in California. Jerry Zaks said to me, “If you move to New York, you can be my AD on Sister Act.” And he got out of the car. My jaw was on the floor.
What is the first thing you’re going to do when theatre is back?
Hug people. Hug them so hard.
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
Learn. Read. Practice. Use this time to keep working on you. Both on stage and off. Living makes you better on stage. Practicing makes you better on stage. Learn some new skills. Be a better and more educated artist when you come back.
Favorite Broadway Musical? Sunday in the Park
Favorite Broadway Play? Curious Incident
Favorite Broadway Revival? The 2008 Revival of Gypsy. That was the first musical I really noticed what great acting looked and sounded like. I understood every moment of that production.
Phantom or Les Miz? Phantom. My first Broadway show.
Hamilton or In the Heights? Hamilton
My Fair Lady or Oklahoma? My Fair Lady. My Mom’s favorite.
Rent or Rock of Ages? Rent. I know that show like the back of my hand.
Stephen Schwartz or Stephen Sondheim? Sondheim. Just so I can cry listening to the end of Sunday in the Park.
Andrew Lloyd Webber or Andrew Guettel? Andrew Lloyd Webber, only for being a part of making me fall in love with Musical Theatre.
Favorite Theatre Ritual? Watching a show from the back of the theater
Favorite NYC Restaurant? Little Owl in the West Village. Get the chicken.
Favorite Theatre Superstition? The ghost light. I love a lightbulb on stage.