Organizers call on New York City theaters to ‘Open Their Lobby’ to protesters

Organizers call on New York City theaters to ‘Open Their Lobby’ to protesters

A growing group of theaters across the country have opened their spaces to demonstrators as protests continue

On Tuesday night, a call for theaters to open their lobbies to protestors marching against racism and police brutality began popping up on Instagram. By Wednesday, several institutions — including the Public Theater, Signature Theatre and Atlantic Theater Company — announced that they would provide places of respite and resources for marchers as protests continue across the country.

Updates from participating theaters are being gathered for the public on Instagram and Twitter by the initiative Open Your Lobby, which officially launched June 3. In an early post, the group behind the call — made up of an anonymous cohort of theater artists and workers — encouraged organizations to follow in the footsteps of the New York Theatre Workshop, which committed its lobby to protesters earlier this week by offering restrooms and supplies.

“In support of #BlackLivesMatter and the many protesters nationwide fighting racism and injustice, we call on theaters to #OpenYourLobby,” organizers said in a statement. “Do not equate the property violence of protesters to the massive, state-sanctioned violence of policing in America. There is no comparison. Things can be replaced, people cannot.”

In Brooklyn, Irondale Center announced Wednesday that its building was open from noon to 7 p.m. “for anyone who needs snacks, water, phone chargers, a bathroom, first aid, etc.” The theater is located near Barclays Center, where several protests have been centered over the past week.

Playwrights Horizons — which released a list of resources for racial justice May 31 in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arberystated it would open its foyer in “solidarity with those fighting for racial justice” beginning June 5 from noon to 6 p.m., to provide WiFi, air conditioning, a place for rest and reflection, personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, snacks and water for protesters.

On Thursday, the independent cinema Metrograph announced that it would be providing restrooms, charging stations, basic supplies and water. Located in the Lower East Side, the theater will be open to demonstrators from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting June 5.

“Movie theaters have a vital role to play here, but so far @MetrographNYC is the only venue offering an open lobby to protestors,” the Cinema Worker Solidarity Fund wrote on Twitter. “Not every organization is near a regular protest site, and there are many reasons why certain spaces won’t be able to accommodate such needs, but we’d like to highlight the theaters that are open to protestors and offering this crucial, material support.”

Adding to institutions outside of the theater industry, the Brooklyn Museum, located near Prospect Park and Grand Army Plaza, will join the Open Your Lobby cohort starting June 5, granting access to resources and all-gender restrooms. Judson Memorial Church is also offering a safe space for protesters. And the Poetry Project, in partnership with St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, is providing nightly sanctuary space for those leaving protests and jail between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Former and current employees of Second Stage Theater and members of the community are also urging the Tony Kiser Theater and the Hayes Theater in Times Square to open their lobbies, citing the Public and New York Theatre Workshop’s decisions to offer their spaces to protesters.

In an open letter to leadership at Second Stage, organizers called on the theater to adhere to guidelines outlined by the Open Your Lobby team, which include: making lobbies available to protesters, providing services, not permitting police to enter the space and offering further support. The letter asks that the theaters consider staffing with volunteers and to adhere to the citywide curfew set by Mayor Bill de Blasio in order to ensure the safety of security guards traveling at night.

“Let’s hold each other accountable and give aide where it is needed,” the letter states. “Second Stage Theater has an incredible opportunity to further its commitment to the people of New York City. Theaters must do more than celebrate diversity in artistic projects, but support and show solidarity in equity and justice for those same communities.”

The Open Your Lobby team has created a resource detailing the theaters participating in New York City and across the country. The document, which organizers said will continue to be updated, lists the addresses, open hours, services provided, restroom availability, social distancing rules and what donations are being accepted at each location.

Update: The Tony Kiser Theater has since opened its lobby.