The day finally came, Constant Reader. After fifteen months of the Quarantimes, trying to conduct my entire life from the laptop on my desk in my Brooklyn apartment, I finally got the call to report back in person to my day job. I’ve made it into Manhattan during this period of exile before, of course – twice before, to be precise, in my two sojourns to the Javits Center to receive my vaccination. (House Pfizer, baby.) But this was the first time since this whole ordeal started that I had a chance to experience what had once been a routine day for me. And that included not only my day at work, but my typical morning errands before reporting to work.
I do my banking with Actors Federal Credit Union; their local branch office is in the Actors Equity building in Times Square. This means that for the past fifteen months, I’ve been unable to do any in-person banking. (I spent the past two months with exactly three one dollar bills in my pocket. It’s been fun.) It also means that, for the first time in fifteen months, I was able to step foot in the Equity building, one of the main hubs for people in my profession and in my city. I was excited! We’ve all heard the stories of New York theater being back, of Broadway shows announcing their grand re-opening dates. Surely it would be a blast to be back in the center of all that activity again, to see the audition studios and waiting rooms and offices, to soak in the energy of the theater world coming back to life.
Well, not exactly.
The credit union offices are open again, it’s true. You can’t just drop by anymore – you need to call and make an advance appointment, which I’d done two days prior. But aside from some more plexiglass and hand sanitizer than was previously there, and more people manning the phones in their cubicles then providing teller service, it’s recognizably the credit union office. That is indeed up and running again.
But the office just behind the credit union office? The member services office, where those of us who don’t trust the mail go to pay our union dues? Where temporary replacement union cards are issued? Completely shuttered, with no signs of activity.
The VITA offices on the same floor, which provide volunteer tax prep? The chamber adjoining it for general membership meetings? The doors to that whole area locked, with no signs of activity.
The cafeteria on the fourth floor, in that area we (and we alone in the history of American architecture, it seems) refer to as the “sky lobby?” Sealed off by metal shutters, with no signs of activity.
The waiting area on that same floor, where early risers wait for the rest of the building to open up and non-union performers spend their days waiting for the remote chance to be seen in an open call audition? Sealed off by metal shutters, with no signs of activity.
And on the door to the sixteenth floor studios, where those auditions happen? A sign, a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper with words that were printed out in what now seems the distant past, stating that the Equity offices were closed for the foreseeable future, and that while the pandemic continued all Equity business would be continued remotely.
There is, course, still Equity business to conduct. (Quite a lot, actually, but that’s a whole other post.) There’s contracts to draw up for all these returning shows, there’s dues payments to process, there’s the basic tasks and drudgery involved in running an office. That office is still there, waiting, silent, inert, sleeping in the cold and the dark and the grey.
It’s worth remembering, as we make fanfare about each Broadway show posting its re-opening night, that those shows represent only a small fraction of the theatrical activity in this city, let alone this country. The rest of us are still out here, like that shuttered office, waiting.
At least we get to do our banking again, though.