by Mo Brady
This week, the New York theatre community lost one of its greatest. Marin Mazzie, three-time Tony nominee passed away after a long battle with Ovarian Cancer.
Every contemporary theatre lover has a story about how Marin’s performance affected them. Her revolutionary performance as Mother in Ragtime ushered one of the greatest modern Broadway roles into the musical theatre canon. I had the pleasure of seeing her twice on Broadway, as Diana in Next to Normal and Anna in The King and I. In both shows, she struck me with the amount of pathos brought her roles. Each felt lived in and remarkably human.
One of the Broadway community’s most beautiful traditions is the dimming of marquee lights. In the minutes prior to a show’s evening performance, the lights outside the theatre will go dark as a communal sense of mourning. Along with the Legacy Robe and stage dooring, this is one of our longest lasting and most beloved traditions.
At the time I am writing this, seven Broadway theatres have committed to dimming their lights on September 19 in honor of Mazzie: the Broadhurst, Gershwin, Hirschfeld, Lyric, Nederlander, Schoenfeld and St. James. While each theatre and theater owner has the right to make their own decision about the dimming of theatre lights, I ask the question: “Why not?”
We as a community dealt with this question a few years ago after the passing of Joan Rivers. Some felt that she was not worthy of this honor, while others felt she was. The discussion continued online and in person, until the Broadway League announced that all Broadway theatres would dim their lights for Rivers.
The tradition of dimming marquee lights is not weakened by its use. In fact, it could be argued that the tradition becomes stronger the more often it is employed. For a community that celebrates its traditions so fiercely, we should take the opportunity to honor a great contemporary artist.
The theatre community is stronger when we support each other. Whether it be celebrating each others’ success or supporting each other in mourning, we are a better community when we lean into our compassionate nature. Let’s support each other by coming together on September 19 in honor of Mazzie.