A decision by the Broadway League to not honor Joan Rivers with the traditional posthumous tribute afforded to deceased stage celebrities has the theater community up in arms on Twitter.
In an interview with The New York Times, executive director Charlotte St. Martin explained the League’s decision not to honor Rivers with the tradition of dimming the lights on Broadway theater marquees. It’s an honor bestowed on Broadway icons typically within the week following their death, yet Rivers—a Tony Award nominee, playwright, frequent opening night guest, and vehement vocal supporter of Broadway—apparently doesn’t qualify.
“Under our criteria 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,” St. Martin told the Times. “We love Joan – she was very supportive of Broadway and came to a lot of show openings – but she hasn’t acted on Broadway in 20 years… When you say Joan Rivers, you don’t think comedy, television and Broadway. You think comedy and television. It’s certainly nothing against her.”
Though the Broadway League represents the interests of theater owners and producers, its explanation has elicited sizable criticism from fans of theater and Rivers (and the likely large overlap of both groups). Industry supporters have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #Dim4Joan to voice their disdain for the League’s decision, which was made by a small committee which St. Martin did not identify. An online petition has also started circulating.