Every year since 1997, one great and enduring friend of the theatre has organized, produced and promoted an event called the Broadway Blessing, an interfaith service featuring song, dance and story designed to seek God’s blessing on the new theatre season.
That person is not, as you might be inclined to think, an actor or a director or a producer or a designer or a theatre owner or a marketer or a press agent or a flunky or a has-been or a flack or a dreamy-eyed upstart. That person is an award-winning author and journalist — Retta Blaney. She does not make the Broadway Blessing happen because she covets personal glory.
Rather, as a longtime chronicler of the New York theatre scene and a highly respected member of the Drama Desk, Blaney is simply a believer in the innate power and unlimited capacity of the performing arts community to do tremendous collective and spiritual good. This is why the Broadway Blessing is not about one faith or one angle by which the world, and our small part of it, may be viewed.
The Broadway Blessing is linked to the very notion of faith itself, be it held close in passionate belief or at a distance, in active inquiry. It about the vital intersection of faith with the art we discover inside of ourselves and the creativity we then share with humanity.
This year’s Broadway Blessing will be held on Mon., Sept. 9 at 7pm at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration — a storied place well known in the “business” as the Little Church Around the Corner. Tony nominee and noted blogger Melissa Errico will be on hand to offer a “theatre reflection”; joining her will be fellow Tony nominee Christiane Noll, actor-writer-teacher Rich Swingle, Project Dance member Stella Almblade, and the Broadway Blessing Choir.
Rabbi Jill Hausman of The Actors’ Temple and The Right Reverend Andrew St. John, rector of the Church of the Transfiguration, will lead the annual candle-lighting ceremony. The event is free and open to all (contributions are, of course, welcome).
In celebration of the upcoming celebration, the Clyde Fitch Report asked this year’s participants to offer their own personal blessing for the new season on Broadway and beyond. We are honored to present their thoughts:
My blessing for the upcoming theatre season is that each artist feels both their individual inspiration is recognized and that they feel cherished and honored as a member of their team. To feel that not only are they experiencing personal satisfaction but that they have enriched their team- knowing everyone they are collaborating with has learned and is gratified.
I hope they feel closer to the truths of our human lives and have also allowed themselves the glorious release and escape into their imaginations. Most of all, that our theatres are full of the beautiful pulse of all the ravishing dreams which fill our hearts. May theatre artists lift their voices in celebration, peace, joy, mischief, passion and in service to the myriad stories we all so look forward to witnessing and experiencing.
Kudos to those who are working, and courage and patience to those who are yearning and waiting for their turn. Remember that while it may look as if you are fiddling in the dirt, you are planting seeds which will grow one day and burst into the light.
Being lucky enough to be a part of the theatrical community in New York City is a blessing! I wish that everyone would remember that! Sometimes shows run and sometimes they do not! We have been given an incredible gift that we get to share every time we take the stage! Sometimes it is easy to forget just how lucky we are to be a part of anything that touches people’s emotions the way live theatre can. I wish for a sense of joy, gratitude and wonder to surprise everyone who steps into a theatre, whether they are sitting in the audience or creating the experience or enhancing the experience being had by all. There is a delicate balance to be struck between work and play and I wish that everyone continue to enjoy discovering that balance.
Rabbi Jill Hausman:
We are all hungry for light and love in our lives. All the inspiration and the giving, all the things we need, are right at hand. We can find them in the creativity and the caring we provide for each other. All the years of striving to do our best, the excellence we demand of ourselves, and the technique that has become second nature to us, when put in the service of sharing with others has the possibility of opening up the realm of the spiritual, for us and for those who we work with and work for.
My wish for the Broadway season is that we share generously with each other; that our vessels of giving, the shows and music we perform, are worthy vessels that give deep satisfaction; that we interact with each other with kindness and respect for the Divinity within each other, and that we stay healthy and productive. I wish for a creatively satisfying season in which everyone is taken care of and each of us, through our deeds, ascends just a little higher, becoming kinder and more compassionate, more loving and more giving to each other.
Rich Swingle, who will perform a scene from his one-man play, Beyond the Chariots:
Live theatre has the power to enlighten, inspire and heal. It bypasses logic and speaks to our very souls. I hope the Broadway community will be blessed with fresh insights from existing shows and new works that nurture all of our souls. I hope that those who create would be flooded with joy and gratitude as they are paid to play and that those who fill the seats would be drenched with catharsis and hope, washing them of cynicism and doubt. May they leave the theatres enrobed with fresh vision and compassion, searching for ways to bless others.
Elowyn Castle, President of the Episcopal Actors Guild:
Performers are our life’s blood, and our mission is to support them in times of trouble. We say:
May this be a season that nourishes and nurtures the creative force in all artists;
May this force be the guide that provides good writers of good plays to find the necessary connections to get their plays produced;
May it give the myriad talented actors an opportunity to work and be seen;
May it open the eyes of producers and directors to new and wonderful possibilities.
And keep the dreams alive.
Cheryl Cutlip, Founder and Director, Project Dance:
Dear fellow theatre friends, I pray abundant blessings for each of you as you embark on another wonderful season. As you share your God-given gift of song and dance with audiences in New York, may their hearts be full of love and laughter. And, may your life be full, too, knowing that for today you have the privilege of sharing a stage with some of the most incredible people in the world.