Broadway theaters will dim their marquee lights on Tuesday evening at 6:45 p.m. for one minute in memory of the late Tony-nominated comedian Joan Rivers. The dimming of marquee lights is an industry honor to pay tribute to those in the Broadway community who have passed.
Joan Rivers was initially denied this honor by the Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers. Arts Beat reported that Rivers did not meet the criteria for the honor, according to Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the league.
“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. 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.”
However, many in the Broadway community disagreed. Many felt that Joan’s roles on Broadway and support for the community were enough. According to Arts Beats, Rivers was a writer and performer in the 1971 flop Fun City; a replacement performer in the role of Kate Jerome in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound in 1988; and a writer and star of the play Sally Marr…And Her Escorts in 1994. Ms. Rivers was nominated for a best actress Tony for Sally Marr.
In fact, many theaters said they would go rogue and dim their lights anyway. One off-Broadway producer, Tom D’Angora, started an online petition urging the Broadway League to change its decision. He collected more than 4,400 signatures, according to Reuters. After the strong support for Rivers was seen by the Broadway League, the decision was reversed with all of Broadway now giving Rivers the honored distinction.
In recent years, Broadway theaters dimmed their lights for James Gandolfini, Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams (who made his acting debut on Broadway in 2011 and had an earlier stand-up show there). There have occasionally been exceptions to the league’s criteria, as Ms. St. Martin herself acknowledged to Arts Beat, noting that the nine Broadway theaters owned by the Nederlander Organizations dimmed their lights in honor of George Steinbrenner after his death in 2010 because the Nederlanders were minority partners in the Yankees.
What do you think? Did Joan Rivers earn the honor of having the Broadway lights dimmed in her name?