Nathan Lane on the value of live performing arts

60 Minutes spoke with Broadway legend Nathan Lane on the hopeful resurgence of the performing arts in New York.

Nathan Lane on live performing arts
Nathan Lane on live performing arts 02:13

NY PopsUp, a New York State program that began in February and will run through Labor Day, is a series of 300 free pop-up experiences backed by $6 million. "Like a cultural Band-Aid," this plan is aimed at reminding the public about the joy of live art, which has been mostly absent during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

This Sunday, 60 Minutes reported on the eclectic program and spoke with Broadway legend and Tony Award-winner Nathan Lane on his recent performance—a monologue called "Playbills," written by Paul Rudnick, about a theatre fan dreaming about Broadway stars visiting his apartment during the pandemic. 

"Well, you know in general New York City is about the arts. It's about the culture, you know. And we've been deprived of that for over a year," Nathan Lane said to 60 Minutes correspondent Jon Wertheim. 

The last time Lane performed on stage was in 2019 for "Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus," a Shakespeare-inspired Broadway play that received seven Tony Award nominations. This time around, Lane performed in a different capacity. 

On April 3rd at Manhattan's St. James Theater, 60 Minutes cameras rolled as the actor delivered his humorous monologue for a live audience of 150 COVID-tested theater fans. A performance for which this veteran actor said he was "terrified." 

"I'll tell you honestly, I was, like, terrified," Lane shared. "This was opening and closing night all at once... there wasn't any real rehearsal. It was a first performance."

And because live theatre is such a collaborative experience between the actors on stage and the audience in the stands, COVID precautions and a restricted audience capacity made performing the play difficult and judgment of its comedic success difficult for the decorated Broadway star.

"[The audience was] sweet but you're also dealing with an audience of 150 that's spread out. And they're all wearing masks, which tends to muffle laughs. And so, it was a trickier proposition," Lane explained. 

Regardless, Lane said that, "telling a little story to a group of people and sharing something with them that's both really funny and really moving... there's nothing better." 

Nathan Lane is excited for the prospect of a return to live theatre on Broadway and beyond, as he thinks we all miss that "human connection."

And what, if anything, does Lane hope stays dark after the Broadway community emerges from the pandemic? 

"Cats. We don't need Cats. Enough with Cats," the actor wryly told 60 Minutes, with his signature smirk on his face.

The video above was produced and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.