Broadway dims lights for Joan Rivers in reversal of earlier decision

Broadway theaters dimmed their lights in honor of Rivers on Sept. 9 after many protested over the Broadway League's decision not to do so and some theaters said they would be going ahead with it anyway. Joan Rivers died on Sept. 4.

Dan Steinberg/AP
Joan Rivers greets the audience at the 'Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers' in Los Angeles in 2009.

Broadway recently dimmed its lights for recently deceased comedienne Joan Rivers, a reversal of its earlier decision.

The theaters have often done so in honor of those who were involved with Broadway productions, but according to the New York Times, Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin originally said on Sept. 8 that she believed people associated Rivers, who received a Tony nomination for her work on the show "Sally Marr... and Her Escorts," among other theater work, with other mediums more than with her time on the stage.

“Under our criteria people need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway – people who made their careers here, or kept it up,” St. Martin said. “We love Joan – she was very supportive of Broadway and came to a lot of show openings – but she hasn’t acted on Broadway in 20 years. When you say Joan Rivers, you don’t think comedy, television and Broadway. You think comedy and television. It’s certainly nothing against her.”

The Broadway League is made up of producers and owners of the theaters on the Great White Way.

However, some weren’t pleased with the decision of the group. Some theaters decided to dim their lights despite the verdict, with Jujamcyn Theaters deciding to dim the lights on its five theaters, according to Deadline. Jujamcyn president Jordan Roth said of Rivers in a statement, "When not on stage herself, she was often seen in the audience on opening nights, cheering for all and championing the Broadway she so loved," according to the Associated Press.

The example was soon followed by Disney Theatrical Productions, the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Helen Hayes Theatre, and Boston’s Wilbur Theatre all saying they would dim their lights on Sept. 9. In addition, a petition created by Off-Broadway producer Tom D’Angora supporting the dimming of the lights gathered almost 6,000 signatures.

Some took to Twitter to express their displeasure, with actress Audra McDonald of “Porgy and Bess” tweeting,

while actor and writer Harvey Fierstein wrote,

When the decision was reversed, according to the NYT, St. Martin said in a statement, “Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her. Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theaters in New York will be dimmed in her memory tonight [on Sept. 9] at exactly 6:45 pm for one minute.”

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