An Open Letter to Broadway from Your Fat, Disappointed Lover

Written by Rachel Marcus.

Art by Eye for Ebony and Denys Nevozhai.

Dear Broadway,

I love you so much. The kind of love where I’m listening to original cast albums on the subway right now kind of love.

Broadway, I know New Yorkers aren’t supposed to say this, but I like Times Square. My favorite thing about it is when audiences exit your theaters, Playbills in hand, discussing the stories they’ve just seen on your stages with friends and family.

Moving to NYC was hard but having you here, Broadway, made it bearable. I knew that in your dark theaters, I could escape. I would be swept away… into someone else’s story and someone else’s problems, to a place where I’d feel heard, inspired, or challenged.

But before I walk into your theaters, I have to remind myself that you’re going to cause me pain. Physical pain.

But before I walk into your theaters, I have to remind myself that you’re going to cause me pain. Physical pain. Dear Broadway, your seats are too small. They leave deep indentations on my outer thighs. Did you know that?

Most of your seats are made for people no larger than 6’2” tall and 250 lbs. So many of your lovers can’t join you because you haven’t made room for us. Was that on purpose? Do you not want us to visit?

These old seats hurt, Dear Broadway. But what hurts most is that even when you have an opportunity to make space for me, you don’t take it. Late last year I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the recently renovated Lyric Theatre. Those were some of the smallest seats I’ve been in—and I was in an aisle seat which is typically the widest option. As the New York Times reported, the theatre spent $33 million to make room for J.K. Rowling’s show. During this renovation, 274 seats were removed, but the space they saved wasn’t passed on to ticket purchasers who need more hip room.

(Because of AllGo’s work on a forthcoming project about tips and tricks for getting fat-friendly seating at a variety of venues, I’ve since learned that the Lyric Theatre does have bench seating in the back of the venue that likely would have led to a more comfortable experience for me. You’re on the right track, Broadway.)

But babe, it’s not just your seats that keep me from fully committing to you. The productions you greenlight are a little fatphobic too.

Not only is there a dearth of fat actors on your stages in general, but when they appear, they’re stereotypes like a buffoon sidekick (Book of Mormon), a bullied loser (Heathers) or a matronly figure (Beauty & The Beast).

Not only is there a dearth of fat actors on your stages in general, but when they appear, they’re stereotypes like a buffoon sidekick (Book of Mormon), a bullied loser (Heathers) or a matronly figure (Beauty & The Beast). And don’t tell me, “What about Hairspray?!” While I’m glad there is one role you can point to designed specifically for a fat woman, a main plotline of Hairspray is that this character is too “disgusting” to be loved! Hairspray is not an achievement worth boasting about.

Dear Broadway, just say no to fat jokes. It’s 2020.

I cried during The Prom as Brooks Ashmanskas made a self-deprecating fat joke that made me sad for him and his fatter costar, Josh Lamon. Tears rolled down my face as the cast of Toni Stone stood in a line and yelled out, “Your mama’s so fat…” jokes. It didn’t seem necessary, it didn’t help progress the plot in any way, and it hurt me.

Fat people are a lot like thin people—we have similar life experiences and want many of the same things. And we make up about one-third of your potential audience, Broadway. Why can’t just we star in a production that doesn’t focus on our size?

Rachel to Broadway: Start welcoming everyone who wants to experience your magic. When you renovate your theaters, provide larger and more accessible seats. Greenlight plays with dynamic fat characters. Cast fat actors in fulsome roles.

Broadway, I have learned ways to advocate for myself, which I will share below. But I hope you will take these concerns seriously and change. Start welcoming everyone who wants to experience your magic. When you renovate your theaters, provide larger and more accessible seats. Greenlight plays with dynamic fat characters. Cast fat actors in fulsome roles. I believe in you!

Love,

Rachel

Tips for Fellow Fat People Who Love Broadway

After experiencing all of this physical and emotional pain with Broadway, why haven’t I broken up with her? Because she’s magical! She whisks me away to another place, she lets me express my feelings through song, she teaches history and life lessons, and she gives me a view into other people’s lives.

I know Broadway’s theaters are old and rarely renovated. I know that we want to fit in as many people as possible to see these magical shows, but at a size 18, I am literally the size of the average American woman. I acknowledge my privilege to even be able to attend these shows and squish my butt into those seats, living with the indents and discomfort. But what about those who can’t attend because no amount of squishing will allow them to fit?

Until Broadway gets her act together, here are some tips and tricks I have used to gain access to her magical productions:

  1. If you can only afford lottery tickets (aka the cheapest), you don’t get a choice of your seat, but once you get into the theatre, ask to see the House Manager. Explain your situation and they might move you! I did this when I went to see The Ferryman, and I got moved to an aisle seat in the orchestra with a removable armrest.
  2. If you have the privilege to spend more money on tickets, call the theater and book through them. Tell them your situation and ask for seating that will accommodate you. This might be an aisle seat, a seat where the arm goes up, a box seat, or a freestanding armless chair venues sometimes have on hand.
  3. Remember to ground yourself before you go in. Take a few deep breaths and have some positive affirmations at your disposal, such as: I deserve to be here. My Body is a good body. It’s not that my body is too big, it’s that the seats were made too small.

You got this. Enjoy the show.


About the Author

Rachel Marcus is a Jewish mom in a 20s fat body. Originally from LA and now in NYC, she is a fativist (fat activist) who is passionate about the Body Liberation Movement and a staunch believer in Health At Every Size. 

Follow on IG: @rachelmarcuss