Hurricane Irene, which is expected to hit the New York area over the weekend, is poised to wreak meteorological havoc on the city's cultural life. The planned shutdown of mass transit throughout the tri-state area means that Broadway and other local institutions can expect serious disruptions to attendance and all-important weekend ticket sales.
Some groups have already announced cancellations. The Metropolitan Opera has called off its first two summer outdoor screenings on Lincoln Center Plaza, originally scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The canceled screenings are Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" on Saturday and Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" on Sunday.
The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival has been postponed. It had been scheduled to run Saturday and Sunday at Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park. The New York Fringe Festival has also canceled a number of events due to the hurricane.
The big unknown remains Broadway. As of Friday afternoon, all shows on Broadway were expected to play as scheduled over the weekend, according to the Broadway League.
But the shutdown of subways, the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North means that audiences will have a difficult time accessing the theater district. In addition, performers, crew and staff — many of whom live outside the city — can expect a challenging commute.
Subways and buses in New York are expected to shut down starting noon on Saturday. The Long Island and Metro-North Railroads may also suspend service around the same time. New Jersey Transit will also start shutting down service by midday Saturday.
In the past, Broadway shows and their audiences have demonstrated that they are not easily fazed by inclement weather. Theaters remained open during the recent blizzards in December and February.
Popular shows on Broadway such as "The Book of Mormon" and "Wicked" are sold out well in advance. But many productions rely on same-day ticket sales at the box office and at the discount TKTS booths.
Hurricane Irene is impacting other cultural events along the East coast. In Washington, a dedication ceremony for the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial has been postponed from its Sunday date.