On Tuesday March 23rd, the sun was shining as dramatists gathered in front of the iconic TKTS red steps. A microphone and podium were set up and passers-by pulled chairs around. Dramatists lined up, scripts in hand, ready to present their own work in front of a live audience.
The energy was palpable as each writer took the podium and presented their monologues, songs, poetry, and more, and the sound of their voices carried over the honking of passing cars and drilling from construction projects nearby. They were greeted by the growing crowd’s enthusiastic applause.
The whole event was orchestrated by Jenna Chrisphonte, Director of Community Engagement, in partnership with the Times Square Alliance. “Since [the] DG’s office is located in Times Square, I thought it would be a good idea to work with the Times Square Alliance Communications and Programming staff to think of ways to get DG members into Times Square, especially since the local businesses and theatres have been closed due to COVID-19.” The staff of the Times Square Alliance were friendly and helpful as dramatists arrived to present their material. They provided all the necessary technical equipment, welcomed the writers, directed foot traffic, and kept everything running smoothly.
The Times Square Alliance was founded in 1992 for the purpose of maintaining the culture and energy that have made Times Square iconic. Jenna, who was elected to the board of the Alliance in December of 2020, seized the opportunity for Dramatists Guild members to perform their work on Broadway in a time when Broadway, and theatre across the country, has been closed for over a year.
“Normally, we do most of our New York programming in the Mary Rodgers Room, but with COVID’s closures, we took the programming to the street and introduced DG to an entirely new crowd of people,” Chrisphonte said when speaking about her idea for the partnership. “The Times Square Alliance agreed that it was a wonderful event, and we hope to schedule additional events as the weather continues to get warm and even continue the programming after theatres reopen hopefully in the fall.”
The Times Square Alliance has been running programming in Times Square throughout the year, including artistic installations, pop-up performances, and community resources. The Dramatists Guild hopes that this event will be the beginning of a long and productive partnership with the Times Square Alliance, with many opportunities for members to share their work with a new audience.
On a personal note, when I stepped up to the podium to share a lyric of mine with the growing crowd, I felt the familiar butterflies of an upcoming performance. It was a feeling that had laid dormant for a long time. When I began reading, I felt the enormity of the moment. I was reading my lyric in front of a smiling audience on a gorgeous, sunny day. I was hearing their laughter. Their applause filled my heart. I am so grateful to Jenna and the Times Square Alliance for the opportunity.
Watching the other performances was just as gratifying as presenting. The joy on each writer’s face, visible even behind their mask, was electric. Their words and music spread throughout the crowd. While standing in the back of the crowd, I witnessed Dramatists Guild members conversing with one another and strangers who had stopped by to witness their work. I saw Broadway-caliber singers accompany themselves on guitar and sing songs they composed themselves. The level of talent present at the red steps in Times Square was incredible. That talent did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
There were people who stopped by just for one song and others who stayed for multiple hours, hearing the stories that our members chose to share. One man in the crowd told me that he had seen pop-up performances in the city before but had never spoken a word. He was eager to find out more about the Guild, the writers, and their work.
Ultimately, the afternoon was a success. With a full roster of writers, and even a waiting list, it is sure to be the first of a series of events of its kind.
Participating members included Joni Daidone, Stella Pulo, Amanda DeLalla, David Schechter, Janice Maffei, Clara Francesca, Ann Gillespie, Patrick Thomas McCarthy, Sarah Rose Kearns, Calvin Levels, T Cat Ford, Kevin Story, Leodis Smith, Richard Helfer, Jacklyn Thrapp, Fran Handman, Debbie Miller, Andrew R. Butler, Robert Shard, Leslie Blake, Nickolas Long, Aladdin Ullah, Leslie Corn, Gwyn McAllister, Ingrid Griffith, Lisa St. Lou, Richard Vetere, Marlin Thomas, Barbara Cassidy, Bonnie Lee Sanders, Diane Davis, C.S. Hanson, Jane Gennaro, Fred Sauter, Brett Macias, Joe Gulla, Natalie Osborne, Warren Leight, Barrie Kreinik, Bruce Ward, Shoshana Yavneh Shattenkirk, Philip Holt, Lucy Brooke, Charles Gross, Ginna Hoben, Danielle DeCrette, and me.
To learn more about the Times Square Alliance and their programming, you can visit their website.