Broadway Theaters Dimming Lights for Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers ABC - H 2014
AP Images/Invision

Joan Rivers ABC - H 2014

After social media outrage, the Broadway League has reversed its decision and will honor the late comedian

Broadway will be dimming its lights for Joan Rivers on Tuesday night.

After a public outcry when Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin said the comedian did not meet the criteria for the honor, St. Martin announced Tuesday that theater marquees would honor Rivers.

“Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her," St. Martin said in a statement released Tuesday. "Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in her memory tonight, at exactly 6:45 p.m. for one minute.” 

St. Martin had previously  told The New York Times that in order to qualify for the honor, "people need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway — people who made their careers here, or kept it up."

Rivers, who died Thursday from cardiac arrest, last appeared on Broadway was in 1994 in Sally Marr…and her escorts, a play she wrote and starred in. She earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance. She also appeared in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound in 1986 and in 1972’s Fun City, which she also wrote.

Comparably, a recent recipient of the dimming honor was Robin Williams, who only starred in one play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and had a 2002 stand-up special, Robin Williams: Live on Broadway.

St. Martin's comment sparked a bit of a social media outrage among the theater community and spawned the hashtag #dim4joan, and everyone from Broadway stars to fans joined in the conversation.

Off-Broadway producer Tom D’Angora also started a petition to get the lights dimmed for Rivers, targeting St. Martin’s remarks. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had 4,310 signatures.

While the Broadway League’s committee — a small group of people St. Martin declined to name — makes the official decision as to whether all the theaters will dim their lights, some already decided to go against the League’s ruling, taking a note instead from Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters.

Roth took to Twitter on Monday night and stated that his theaters — the Eugene O’Neill, housing The Book of Mormon; the Al Hirshfeld, where Kinky Boots is playing; the August Wilson, housing Jersey Boys; the Walter Kerr, where A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is playing; and the St. James, where the revival of Side Show will open this fall — will all dim their lights on Tuesday night.

Following Roth’s decision, Disney Theatricals made the decision to dim the lights of the New Amsterdam Theater, home to Broadway’s Aladdin.

The Helen Hayes Theatre, where Rivers played in Sally Marr…and her escorts and the current home to Rock of Ages, will also dim the lights on Tuesday. 

The Nederlander Organization and the Schubert Organization, two of the largest owners of Broadway theaters, have not issued any statements on whether or not they will dim the lights of their theaters on Tuesday as well.

But thanks to the league's decision, it looks like Joan will get her Broadway tribute and the last laugh.

10:35 a.m. This story has been updated to reflect the Broadway League's revised decision to dim theater marquees on Tuesday night.