Theater Lover's Journal - Oct. 28, 2001

Broadway: An Easy Target

by John Kenrick

At this moment, every theater on Broadway is an open invitation to terrorists.

No, this is not alarmist nonsense – it's a disturbing fact. And we have to do something about it. As a lifelong New Yorker, I believe the best protection against criminals is to out-think them before they can strike.

We know that Osama bin Laden's organization specializes in training suicide bombers. These carefully selected fanatics hide heavy duty explosives in their clothing, setting themselves off in crowded public places and killing as many people as possible. Convinced that their actions are a form of martyrdom assuring their place in paradise, they have terrorized Israel for years, killing and maiming thousands of civilians.

With all that has happened since September 11th, can we dare to pretend that our theaters are not at risk? We know they prefer high-profile targets, and that they would love to petrify New York. What better (or more horrible) way to strike fear in people's hearts than by devastating a packed Broadway theater?

I know the World Series and Super Bowl are far more attractive targets – and so do the folks managing those events. Yankee Stadium began running bag and body searches on fans and players during the playoffs, and plans to do the same during the championship games ahead.

But Broadway? Even though cooler weather has made bulky coats the norm, theatre-goers face nothing more than cursory bag checks handled by ushers armed with flashlights and apologies.

Ushers? This isn't security – it's insanity! We know that terrorists select their targets based on where society lets its guard down. As it stands now, anyone could walk into a theater packed with body explosives. I don't like the idea of being searched, but it beats the hell out of being blown to pieces before intermission.

Don't kid yourself by saying it can't happen, or that its a remote possibility. No one was willing to get upset over pathetic airport security before September, and Anthrax in the mails was dismissed as an unlikely threat before October. Does someone have to blow up The Producers before we take sensible action?

I am not calling for us to do this out of panic or fear, but as a common sense precaution. We have to make Broadway a less convenient target.

So what can we do? Write letters to the theater owners, the papers, and your civic leaders – get on the phone and get your friends on this too. We have to urge the Shuberts, Nederlanders and Jujamcyn Group to take the initiative on this immediately. The theater owners owe it to their employees as well as their audiences to have professional security teams inspect the bags and coats of everyone entering every theater. Let's not wait until another date is tragically etched into our memories.

Contact information:

The Shubert Organization
225 West 44th Street
NY, NY 10036

Nederlander Productions
1450 Broadway
NY, NY 10018

Jujamcyn Theaters
248 West 44th Street
NY, NY 10036

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