By Cindy Hsu

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For many performers and theater workers, returning to Broadway is not business as usual.

Fans from all over the world travel to Broadway, and the push is on to have more diversity among the talented teams putting on the shows.

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CBS2’s Cindy Hsu has the story of Broadway’s equity and inclusion efforts.

On August 4, “Pass Over’s” three actors took their bows after a monumental preview performance. It was the first play staged since March 12, 2020. It was a significant step in reopening Broadway, and it ushered in a new era.

“It feels so good not only to be back in theater, but to see Black people on these stages using their voices, telling their stories,” one theater fan told CBS2.

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Seven plays this fall are written by African American playwrights, including Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s one-man show, “Lackawanna Blues.”

The show celebrates Miss Rachel, affectionately called Nanny, a big hearted woman who raised the Tony Award winner in a boarding house infused with blues — a home where everyone was welcome.

Santiago-Hudson is the writer, director and star of the play that first premiered off Broadway in 2001. He’s performed it around the country and recently took the stage at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem with a preview. “Lackawanna Blues” was also an HBO movie.

“We’re talking about guys, some of them were hobos, some from mental hospitals,” Santiago-Hudson told Hsu. “They thought they were not worthy, or they thought that they didn’t measure up. In Nanny’s house, everybody measured up… She made sure of that, because she instilled that in you.”

Hsu spoke with Santiago-Hudson about Broadway working to create a more inclusive and diverse environment, which he pointed out are two different issues.

“I am very pleased that the theater owners recognize that they have to do something differently. Diversity is the way things look. Inclusion is an attitude, it’s the way things happen,” Santiago-Hudson said. “That means you have included my opinion, things that are important to me.”

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Santiago-Hudson will also direct another play this fall, called “Skelton Crew,” written by Dominique Morisseau.

“This cannot be a moment. It has to be a movement,” he said. “And I will continue to preach that.”

The Broadway League hopes Gennean Scott will help implement that. She was hired as the first director of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“This year is probably the most diverse year that we’ve had in all of Broadway, with the seven shows that are opening that are produced or written by Black people,” she told Hsu. “But this is just the beginning.”

Scott said the Broadway League will expand programs like Broadway Bridges, which is aimed at giving every New York City public high school student the chance to see a show before graduating.

“About 70% of the students identify as people of color,” Scott said. “If they don’t see it, then they don’t know that they too can be that on stage or behind the stage.”

“Chicago” is the longest running American musical in Broadway history and now returns with Latino actors in principle roles. Hsu caught up with Ana Villafane and Bianca Marroquin.

“It is beautiful it’s the first time that Roxie and Velma, two Latinas playing them. That’s why I say we’ve come so far,” said Marroquin.

“I watched for years as Bianca was playing Roxie, and now getting to step into the other side as well as Velma, just showing there’s nothing we can’t do,” Villafane added.

Marroquin has been a part of “Chicago” for 20 years.

“Not knowing at the time that I became the first Mexican woman ever to cross over from Mexico to Broadway with a lead role, and I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

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“Chicken and Biscuits” is now in previews at Circle in the Square Theater. The comedy was written by Douglas Lyons and is one of several new plays by African Americans coming to Broadway this season.

Cindy Hsu