We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were In”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Frozen Is the First Long-Running Show to Close on Broadway
This week Disney producers announced that the musical version of the Disney story Frozen will be permanently ending its Broadway presence due to economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the summer of 2013, when Frozen began its road to Broadway, two things were unimaginable,” said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, “that we’d soon have five productions worldwide, and a global pandemic would so alter the world economy that running three Disney shows on Broadway would become untenable.” Disney’s longer-standing shows Lion King and Aladdin were not said to be at risk.
While the musical is still planning to complete a North American tour at an undetermined date, it’s hard to believe that the story known for such made-for-musical ballads as “Let it Go” will no longer have a presence in the New York City arts district. Mary McColl of the Actors’ Equity Association commented, “the arts and entertainment sector drives the economy of New York, just like it does in cities and towns across the country. Decisions made in the days and weeks ahead will shape the future of the arts sector for years to come.” For those who watch Frozen on its North American tour in the future, I imagine we will be relating much more deeply to the character Anna at the start of the story, when, after long isolation, they “open up the gates.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Megyn Kelly Interviews Tara Reade in a Trailblazing Move for Media
Late last Friday, Megyn Kelly released on her YouTube channel an in-person interview she completed with Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer who has accused presidential hopeful Joe Biden of sexual assault in 1993. Until then, Reade had not been featured in any in-person interview. Kelly has since called the independently conducted interview “the wave of the future.”
The Hill reports that Reade had prerequisites in agreeing to the interview with Kelly. "She said she wanted someone who is nonpartisan. Who would ask her tough questions, but who was trauma-informed," Kelly says. "I think she was just on her heels about some other interviews she has had, on the way people approach discussing sexual assault, and she wants to make sure she’s talking to someone who understood the issues that go along with it." After watching the video this week, I think those prerequisites were certainly met. Read our Verily piece on it here. —MRS
Legendary Funnyman Jerry Stiller Dies
Jerry Stiller, who made people laugh for decades in a comedy career that began in the 1950s, died this week. He was 92.
Stiller is probably best known as George Costana’s TV dad on Seinfeld. In that iconic role he originated pop culture touchstones like the celebration of Festivus and the catchphrase “Serenity now!” But over the years he also acted in movies like Hairspray and guest starred on small screen shows like Law and Order. CBS News reports that Stiller and his wife of six decades, comedienne Anne Meara, appeared together on The Ed Sullivan Show more than 30 times.
Perhaps the late actor’s greatest legacy is his son, Ben Stiller, who followed in his father’s
footsteps and is arguably an even bigger comedy star. He announced his dad’s passing on Twitter, saying, “I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad.”
Tributes poured in from celebrities ranging from William Shatner to Jimmy Kimmel, but perhaps the most poignant came from Jason Alexander, who played Stiller’s hapless son on Seinfeld. “I adored this man,” he tweeted out. —Margaret Brady
Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Showdown with California Government
Entrepreneur and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, defied local ordinances prohibiting the operation of nonessential businesses when he declared that he would be reopening his plant regardless of its legality. With their headquarters based in Fremont, California, the company faced opposition from Alameda County, who declared that reopening the business prematurely would make them out of compliance with the local COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
Musk, never one to back down without a fight, had his company file a lawsuit against the county in which they allege that the current shutdown is in violation of a previous order by the California Governor that permitted some businesses, including transportation,to continue their work. As well, Musk spoke with radio host Joe Rogan on the matter, telling him that the shutdown is a “massive infringement on civil liberties” and “fundamentally a violation of the Constitution [and of] Freedom of Assembly.”
This stance won him support from the Trump administration, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin telling reporters on Monday that Musk is “one of the biggest employers and manufacturers in California, and California should prioritize doing whatever they need to do to solve those health issues so that he can open quickly or they're going to find, as he's threatened, he's moving his production to a different state.”
California officials ultimately caved to Musk’s demand, collaborating with him to ensure safe working conditions for returning workers. Others, meanwhile, are upset with Musk’s urgency to reopen, pointing to the fact that the county where Tesla resides has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases and that measures taken at the plant may not be sufficient to curb the spread of the disease. —Mariel Lindsay
Evicted Yosemite Employees Fear Homelessness
After closing to the public on March 20 due to coronavirus concerns, 300 employees of Yosemite National Park’s concessionaire Aramark were furloughed, and some now face eviction.
The National Park Service subsidizes housing for 90 of these Aramark employees and last week notified tenants who live on the park’s grounds that they would be evicted effective May 21st. According to one Fresno report, “Company managers reportedly told them repeatedly that Aramark is ‘graciously’ giving them until later this month to leave instead of 72 hours.”
While the affected evicted areas directly violate Governor Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on evictions through May 31st, it is unclear what bearing those restrictions hold over federal land. Aramark has stated that, “for those who are having trouble making new housing arrangements, we will continue to work with them on a case-by-case basis until they are able to do so,” but made no guarantees that employees would get their jobs back once the park reopens.
Yosemite is not the first park to deal with employee evictions; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks both evicted concessionaire employees at the end of March. —Maggie Sicilia Bickerstaff
DOJ Drops Case Against Flynn after FBI Internal Documents Suggest Corruption
Former National Security Advisor and Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn has had criminal charges of lying dropped after the FBI’s internal documents surfaced, revealing questionable motives and the possibility of coercion. According to the recently unsealed documents, top bureau officials discussed their then-upcoming 2017 interview with Flynn at the White House and referenced the possibility that their “goal” was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
The FBI’s investigation into Flynn was part of the larger saga of the Mueller probe, in which top officials within the Trump administration were investigated for possible collusion with Russia in the foreign country’s alleged attempt to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. What’s more, this discovery comes after years of legal battles between the prosecuted Flynn and the Department of Justice. Flynn, in fact, did eventually plead guilty to the charges levied against him, declaring in 2017 that he did make false statements to the FBI regarding his conversations with Russia’s ambassador. Nonetheless, some claimed that Flynn had been coerced into a false confession, both because the battle had financially impoverished him and because the DOJ was threatening to go after his son.
Democrats have said the decision reveals the DOJ is politicized; Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee called the decision “outrageous” and suggested that Flynn has received “special treatment.” Meanwhile, President Trump is alleging that Flynn’s lengthy prosecution was part of a conspiracy on the part of the Obama administration to target his officials, calling it “Obamagate.” —ML
Access to Mental Health Assistance Increases Amid COVID-19 Fallout
Recent reports suggest that the traumatic outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic could have a very significant impact on the nation’s overall mental health. Fortunately, according to many psychologists and mental health experts, there are ways to mitigate these risks.
According to NPR, survivors of mental health struggles and suicide-prevention activists have been compiling resources and tips for how to combat feelings of despair and loneliness, such as connecting with family and friends via Zoom, seeking teletherapy or online support groups, developing new routines to maintain focus and distract from thoughts of anxiety, and seeking financial help.
Additionally, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is coordinating a National Response to COVID-19 to better publicize mental health resources for individuals who are feeling particularly vulnerable during this crisis.
The large scope of this pandemic’s effect can prove intimidating to those who cope with feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and loneliness, but mental health experts advise that even small steps like texting someone and sharing feelings with them have a positive impact. —MSB
Malia and Sasha Obama Give their First Interview In Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Documentary
Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir Becoming has inspired a Netflix documentary of the same name, in which Obama daughters Malia and Sasha give their first public interviews.
The documentary follows the former First Lady’s book tour and gives an inside look at the Obama family’s lives before the White House, the compromises and sacrifices Michelle made in order to have children, and her perspective as an empty-nester. In this light, Malia, a student at Harvard, and Sasha a student at the University of Michigan, appear and give their interviews about life after the White House and their mother’s accomplishment in her memoir.
The Obama daughters’ privacy was paramount during their father’s administration, so the documentary offers the two their first opportunities to speak publicly. —MSB
Good News of the Week
This year’s Gerber baby is the first known adopted baby chosen for the infant role. Magnolia Earl.
"At Gerber, we have always recognized that every baby is a Gerber baby,'' the company said in a statement to TODAY. "In the 10 years we have hosted Photo Search, we have been proud to feature babies of diverse backgrounds. This year is no exception by featuring Magnolia, our first adopted Gerber Spokesbaby."
Magnolia’s adoptive parents have stayed in touch with her birth parents, TODAY reports. "If you could hear the joy in their voice of how proud they are of this little girl," mother Courtney Earl said; "together with them and our community and our family, we all this love this baby girl so much." —MRS
Watch of the Week
During these times of quarantine, it’s fair to say we could all use some of the late Jerry Stiller’s mantra from Seinfeld: “Serenity Now!”
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