By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As Broadway prepares to reopen, one Midtown rehearsal space is already gearing up to meet high demand.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports, the folks at New 42 Studios in Times Square like to say it’s where the magic happens.

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“Rehearsal is the best part. So we believe that that is a true statement,” said Russell Granet, president & CEO.

Granet says the best sign Broadway is back on its feet is what’s happening on 42nd Street.

“Come mid-August, we are booked solid. And my guess is that’s true for every rehearsal studio in the city, which is a challenge because you want to be able to accommodate everyone who calls, and if the protocols change, that means some of our studios could potentially be freed up. So we are booked based on the current protocols. If those change, then our space frees up. But it is a sign that things are coming back, so as much as it’s a challenge, we’re trying to be as open and accommodating as possible. The good news there is that it’s a sign that theatre, dance, the arts are coming back,” Granet said.

With 14 rehearsal studios, New 42 is where it all begins for many Broadway shows. Before they hit stages, performers are at New 42 rehearsing in the heart of Times Square.

“Some people come in with a fully realized idea for a show with a strong beginning, middle and end, perhaps even a cast, a director already in place, and they’re coming here really, to bring life to what’s on the paper,” Granet said.

Mrs. Doubtfire is just one of dozens of Broadway shows that rehearse in the New 42 Studios each year before opening on Broadway.

“Other artists come here with an idea, and it’s in a workshop, and so in the room, you can imagine, you have artists, you have choreographers, you have dancers, you have dramaturgs all coming together with a vision for something, but that vision isn’t quite realized, so what they need is a space where they can be quiet, where they can feel safe to create work and this idea of the building supporting that,” Granet said.

He says performers and creators will need to be patient, and safety plays a big role in the scheduling of rehearsal rooms.

“We will always err on the side of being more cautious. I hope for everyone’s sake that there can be a little bit more freedom to rehearse and enter the building. We have to, as an example, have to stagger, you know, entrances and exits. We don’t want everyone showing up at the same time or leaving at the same time. It is a challenge scheduling-wise,” Granet said.

And there’s space to relax and take a break from the rigors of rehearsal.

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“This is where oftentimes our artists have meals, they have breakfast, they have lunch, they have dinner, but it’s closed temporarily, but I look forward to the time when it can be open and everyone can be together,” he said.

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer and founder of Time Lapse Dance. Like many artists, Sperling had to pivot during the pandemic.

“There’s nothing like being in a room full of living, breathing bodies,” Sperling said.

Sperling didn’t let the shutdown shut out her creativity. She stayed in step with the changing times, and took her dance company to the streets of New York.

“The piece is called ‘Bunhead’s Back.’ And in the dance, Maki wears a mask on the back of her head, and it’s inspired by Degas’ sculpture of a 14-year old dancer,” Sperling said. “I think all of us feel at sometime in our life like we’re a little bit different and we don’t fit in.”

“At Time Lapse Dance, we believe that dance can be a driver of social change, and I think that we have seen how much society needs to change over the past year, and so we’re interested in deploying dance to create a more sustainable and a more equitable future,” Sperling added. “We have to continue to think about art as a means for enriching our lives but also building community and envisioning the kind of future that we want.”

Now back in the studio rehearsing, Sperling is ready for a reopening of the performing arts.

“To be in a studio, it’s a special place for dance, and it feels like coming home and rediscovering this whole part of yourself that I’ve been developing for decades,” Sperling said.

She says returning to the stage comes with some additional challenges.

“It’s gonna be a big adjustment for us to feel comfortable being in social proximity and sharing the same breath after, you know, so much trauma over the past year, but I think it’s also really important for us to become fully embodied and to continue to grow and frankly to make the changes that we need to make as a society,” Sperling said.

The 42 Studio also has the New Victory Theater, which is dedicated to producing shows for kids and families.

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“The New Victory Theater and the arts education program that we have affiliated with it is the largest provider of performing arts to New York City public schools,” Granet said. “The arts start at a very young age. We know from our own research that if you’re exposed to arts before the second grade, you are much more likely to be a theater-goer, to exhibit empathy. You’re much more likely to understand and imagine a better life.”

Ali Bauman