The following text was written earlier today under the assumption The Broadway League would announce that they would dim the lights for Kyle Jean-Baptiste on Tuesday, September 1st. They instead chose not to make a statement at all.
People will argue against dimming the lights of Broadway for Kyle Jean-Baptiste. “He was only twenty-one.” “It’s an honor saved for those with long, illustrious careers.” “Are we going to dim the lights for everyone now?” To those who are opposed, I have to tell you: It’s bigger than all that.
The tragic loss of Kyle Jean-Baptiste has been felt far beyond the Broadway community — it has affected the hearts of young aspiring theatre people and theatre lovers around the world. His story struck a chord that moved thousands to cry out for this tribute. Bestowing him with this honor is a message to the future generation of theatrical performers and innovators that their voices can be heard. That they can evoke change. That not only was Kyle’s contribution to the community acknowledged, it reconstructed what is expected of Broadway beyond his historical debut in Les Miserables. The League’s decision to dim highlights what can be achieved when chances are taken on risky, unknown, or unconventional choices. It starts a larger dialogue.
I hope this single act can be replicated annually. I would like the Broadway League to take September 1st, Kyle Jean-Baptiste’s anniversary, and dim the lights in honor of every person lost within the community that year, no matter the extent of the career. A minute for the Joshua Parks and Victoria Mallorys, the stagehands and the press agents, the chorus members, production assistants, writers, associate choreographers, keyboard players, casting directors, producers, and anyone who has contributed to this art form that entertains, inspires, and most importantly: evolves.
At some point in the life of a person who has worked in the theatre, they have changed the life of someone else for the better. Not only did Kyle Jean-Baptiste make history, but he is a symbol for how great the future of Broadway can be.