The city that never sleeps has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Amid the outbreak and rising death toll numbers, New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo asked volunteers to help create N95 masks and other protective equipment. Although Broadway is shut down, people within the industry are offering their help.
Javier Munoz of Broadway’s Hamilton felt the need to organize and mobilize following Cuomo’s remarks. He spearheaded the Broadway Relief Project, which united Broadway seamstresses, actors, and others in the community to help create 10 million surgical gowns to give to hospitals across the city. Already, the project gathered 600 volunteers. Munoz told The Advocate that he got on calls and found people who were ready to participate in the project.
“There were so many people who were already trying to implement their own efforts, so instead of having five, six, seven efforts going at the same time, [I thought], Why don’t we all join together and make one Broadway effort? One big umbrella to house all of us and do it together,” he said.
The volunteers are working their magic in the theatrical studio space that was generously offered by Open Jar Studios owner Jeff Whiting in midtown Manhattan. The space has been transformed into a manufacturing facility, and according to Broadway News, Whiting is working with the city to negotiate an official contract to allow them to maintain materials and pay volunteers for their work.
Others involved in the process include Molly Braverman, the director of Broadway Green Alliance who found fabric donations and transferring materials, as well as Burch Barish of Ernest Winzer Cleaners, who offered drivers and vans.
At this point, Munoz is just waiting to receive the “officially-approved specification” of the gowns, so that the pattern can be pre-cut and given to seamstresses. Once the official numbers come in, the volunteers can begin manufacturing them.
“Manufacturers can start today, a week later after just starting to organize,” Munoz said. “I think that’s a statement to not only the incredible people in our local governments who were willing to work with us but the incredible passionate volunteers who were waiting and chomping at the bit to help — and that’s a beautiful powerful thing we’ve been able to organize. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.”
Broadway has been shut down since March 13 and will remain closed until at least April 13. At this time, the Broadway League is still unsure about Broadway’s official reopening date. Over the weekend, President Trump extended the social distancing halt to April 30.
Those in the New York City that are interested in volunteering can reach out to OpenJarStudios.com.