Jeff Lunden

Even this spring, when New York City was at the center of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S, the city's public parks never closed. Instead, they became a place where people went for a socially distanced refuge, often escaping into music with their headphones. Ellen Reid has taken that experience one step further: The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has written new music for a GPS-enabled app called Soundwalk, specifically designed to accompany walks around Central Park.

Earlier this spring, when New York went on COVID-19 lockdown, Ballet Hispánico artistic director Eduardo Vilaro was ready to adapt quickly. "I went into my immigrant mode," Vilaro says. "How do you survive? What do we have to do?"

The company introduced a whole host of online programming called #BUnidos – Be United — Latino Pride Mondays, Salsa Tuesdays, Wepa Wednesdays, Tiki-Tiki Thursdays, and of course, Fiesta Fridays.

Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater in New York, knows firsthand about the coronavirus. Eustis was hospitalized with COVID on March 10, and by the time he was released five days later, everything was shut down. "I came out into a world that had no theater, and it's a different world," he says.

Playbill, the program magazine given out at theaters, has been around for 136 years. It's not just a program, it's a cherished souvenir. "It has become kind of the best memento of your night out at the theater," says Alex Birsh, the company's vice president.

But with theaters on Broadway and across the country shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Playbill is just one of the many companies servicing the performing arts that has had to adapt.

Here's a surprising statistic: According to a survey by Chorus America, one in six Americans, or 54 million people, sing in choral groups, whether that's community, school and children's choirs, religious groups or professional ensembles. But since stay-at-home orders have been issued across many states, choral music here and around the world has completely stopped.

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Before everything shut down, there were already jitters. An usher tested positive for coronavirus, actors were no longer taking selfies at stage doors and on March 12, one hour before a matinee of Moulin Rouge: The Musical!, the company held an emergency meeting, says actor Danny Burstein.

"They said that somebody in our cast was currently at the doctor's suffering symptoms of COVID-19 and that they were canceling the show," he recalls.

When states and municipalities across the country began banning large gatherings, theaters — from regional stages to Broadway — shut down. But, in a creative solution to a difficult problem, some theaters made archival videos of the closed productions available online, for the cost of a ticket.

In March, the American Conservatory Theater, or A.C.T., in San Francisco had a new play on its main stage called Toni Stone. It was about a female ballplayer in the Negro Leagues.

Broadway shut down in March for what it thought would be a month, but with New York at the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and with guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and the New York governor Andrew Cuomo, theaters will now remain shut until at least June 7th. The announcement was made on Wednesday morning by the Broadway League, an organization of theater owners and producers.

Hippos can get hungry. Very hungry. So when zoos shut their doors to the public because of the coronavirus, zookeepers keep showing up to work to make sure everyone is fed.

Jenna Wingate feeds Fiona, the Cincinnati Zoo's 3-year-old, 1,300-pound hippo. Fiona was born premature, and Wingate has been looking after her since two hours after she was born.

To stem the spread of coronavirus, New York's major cultural institutions announced they would be suspending performances or closing their doors, beginning Thursday.

This August will mark 100 years since women won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. To celebrate, the New York Philharmonic has commissioned compositions by 19 women for an initiative it calls Project 19, which had its first concert earlier this month.

Legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman has died. The author of the hit musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles was 88.

Publicist Harlan Boll said Herman was taken to a Miami hospital Thursday night complaining of chest pain and later died of pulmonary complications.

The title of Jerry Herman's autobiography was Showtune, and if there ever was a Broadway composer who wrote good, old-fashioned, hummable show tunes, it was Jerry Herman.

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Broadway is coming off a record-breaking season, in terms of attendance and box office receipts. But this weekend and next weekend, five musicals, representing an investment of $95 million, will close.

Broadway attendance was up 14% between 2018 and 2019, generating $1.83 billion in ticket sales. But not everyone has been invited to the party, says Jeremy Gerard, who has covered Broadway as a reporter and critic for over three decades.

"It's been a great year for Broadway, and that's true if you're one of the producers of a blockbuster show on Broadway," he says.

The musical theater director and producer Hal Prince, winner of an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards, has died in Iceland after a brief illness. He was 91.

Prince worked on such major shows as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and The Phantom of the Opera. But he was always looking forward to the next show, regardless of how the last one turned out.

In 1965, composer John Kander was working on a show that Prince produced called Flora, The Red Menace — and it was not going well.

June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of an event that proved to be a catalyst for a simmering gay-rights movement. On that day in 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Now a new opera, Stonewall, at the New York City Opera, dramatizes that historic moment.

Trustees of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) announced the evening of May 24 that they will apply to the U.S. Treasury for a reduction in member benefits, due to the AFM-EPF's "critical and declining" status – meaning the fund is projected to run out of money in 20 years. The AFM represents 80,000 professionals in the United States and Canada who play in symphony orchestras and opera houses, on Broadway, in film and television, and on studio recordings.

The 2018-2019 Broadway season hurtled to a close, with 14 plays and musicals opening in March and April, before the Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning. And some of the late entries into the race were handsomely rewarded.

Two of the country's oldest and most venerated music institutions, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, are beginning their seasons with a change in artistic leadership. Both organizations are grappling with 21st century issues of bringing new audiences in and convincing them that centuries-old music forms are central to their lives today.

When the sci-fi teen musical Be More Chill opened in New Jersey a few years ago, it got a ho-hum critical response. But then something surprising happened.

The cast recording and some YouTube videos went viral. Then came fan art, fan fiction and fan covers of the songs on social media.

When the show opened off-Broadway last month, it sold out entirely. In February, Be More Chill will move to Broadway.

Aug. 25, 2018 marks the centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birth. He was a singular American talent and one of the great orchestra conductors of his generation. He was also a composer of symphonies, ballets and hit musicals, a teacher, a television personality and a complicated man with a complicated personal life.

Composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, one of Britain's most influential contemporary classical figures, died Sunday, July 8, at the age of 66. His passing was announced by his publisher, Faber Music, but no cause of death was given.

Knussen was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and grew up in London, where his father was principal double bass for the London Symphony Orchestra. Knussen conducted his first symphony with the ensemble when he was just 15.

Editor's note: This story includes language that some may find offensive.

It was 1968. But playwright Mart Crowley felt he had to write what he knew.

"Nobody wanted the play," Crowley says. "Not even agents wanted to look at this play. They just thought it was pornographic and it was outrageous."

What he wrote in The Boys in the Band was a thinly veiled slice of autobiographical fiction. A group of gay friends gather for a raucous birthday party; by the end of the evening, secrets are spilled, tears are shed.

One of the oldest and most distinguished Spanish language theaters in the U.S. is housed in a converted Manhattan brownstone. "It started actually as a private house," explains Robert Federico, executive producer of Repertorio Español.

The space is tiny — rickety wooden stairs lead backstage and small props are stored in the hallway. The sets are designed to be stashed flush against walls behind black curtains.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility is not the sort of place you'd expect to find a flourishing music community, but a workshop run by Carnegie Hall offers inmates the ability to learn in harmony. Twice a month, artists from New York City travel to Sing Sing and spend a day giving 30 inmates enrolled in the Musical Connections program formal training.

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The Hebrew Psalms have inspired composers for thousands of years.

Now, New York's Lincoln Center is presenting The Psalms Experience, a festival of choral settings of all 150 Psalms by 150 different composers. It includes nine U.S. premieres.

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