It was announced with great fanfare a few weeks ago, on one of those rare occasions where our governor and mayor deign to appear on the same stage as one another; a COVID-19 vaccination center located in Times Square, specifically meant to serve the New York theatrical community.. There were many questions prompted by this news, some of which I’ve asked previously: who exactly is considered the theatre community? Who would be making that decision? Would that decision prioritize one type of theatre, one discipline, over another? What other concrete plans for assistance were there for getting the performing arts scene back to normal, if such a thing is even possible? There weren’t many answers presented all the time, only the triumphant assertion that, pandemic notwithstanding, Broadway was On Its Way Back.
This past week, with even more fanfare, the Times Square vaccination site officially opened. Once again, there was a great public fanfare meant to announce that Broadway, however beleaguered, would be back better than ever. (They even had Lin-Manuel Miranda, patron saint of Broadway artists reminding the world that New York is The Greatest City In The World.) And once again, the public statements didn’t have very much in terms of concrete information. As it turns out, however, the vaccination site doesn’t just serve the New York acting community – its volunteer staff is drawn from its ranks as well. (Note that those volunteers are the support staff, who keep the lines running smoothly, handle the preliminary screenings, and process paperwork – Mr. Miranda may be there to provide moral support, but he won’t be the one giving you the injection, in case you’re worried.) And at least two of my actor friends are counted among those volunteers. So if you’ve been lying awake at night worrying about exactly how this location will function, then worry no longer, Constant Reader – I have actual information to share with you.
The first thing to remember is that this is a city-run vaccination site like any other – if you’re a city resident and you’re able to navigate those byzantine city vaccination websites, you’ll be able to secure a spot. But those are not the only websites used by this particular location; crucially, you can use two websites specific to arts professionals to sign up for available vaccination appointments. (Two that I know of, anyway – if there’s more, great! Gotta get those vaccination rates up!) One of those portals is the official website for Local 802 members, Local 802 being the union for professional musicians, most crucially the Broadway pit orchestras. (Pro tip: ALWAYS do right by Local 802.) The other website, happily, is that for The Actors Fund.
The great thing about the Actors Fund, and what has me reassured about this whole project, is that it isn’t affiliated with one specific union. It has partnership with many of them; if you belong to AEA or SAG-AFTRA, you’re eligible to make use of its many services. (You can find more information about who they are and how they work right here.) But you also qualify if you’re a non-union performer who can demonstrate a portion of your income came from performing, or otherwise working in the arts. Obviously view of us are drawing a performer’s paycheck at the moment, but this theoretically means that the full workforce of the entertainment industry – dressers, ushers, running crew, and everybody else – has one common resource, and one common way to secure an appointment for vaccination.
Furthermore, since this location (like many in New York at the moment) has a surplus of supply, they are accepting walk-ins for the time being. So even if none of those previous criteria apply to you – if you’re still trying to break into the industry, still trying to get into a union, still trying to figure out your place in the arts world despite odds which are long even when there isn’t a global pandemic – you can head to Times Square, wait patiently, and hopefully get your inoculation along with everybody else.
They said they’d bring theatre back, and remarkably, they have – after thirteen long monghts, the experience of being a non-union actor waiting all day in Times Square to be seen by the powers that be has at last been restored. It’s not an experience I don’t think any of us ever expected to be nostalgic for – and yet, here we are.