It began as an artist’s desperate desire to express himself inside a worldwide pandemic, but in one year’s time it has grown into a theater industry and country-wide outlet for healing, grief, justice, and hope in the theater community.
The Covid-19 pandemic revealed what a world without live performance looks and feels like. This book captures a small fraction of the powerful and transcendent internal heartbeat that never went away within the theater community. When the Lights Are Bright Again immortalizes the stories, struggles, and successes of an industry that was the first to be shut down and one of the last to return.
Andrew Norlen weaves more than 200 letters from Broadway theater veterans, devout theatergoers, teenage dreamers aching for their day in the spotlight, long-time ushers, designers, creatives, and countless other arts workers with a brand-new, breathtaking photo series by Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy.
Not only has the creation of this book allowed the theater community to grieve and express themselves in a new way, but for every copy purchased, a portion of the profits will directly benefit The Actors Fund. This book will continue to help support arts workers to thrive and receive financial stability for decades to come with every copy sold.
When The Lights Are Bright Again is a love letter to the arts community and every theatergoer, but, above all else, it is a meditation on the human experience. There is something for every broken, tired, and angry soul inside this book: hope.
There is light in all of us—there always has been!
Andrew Norlen, originally from Troutdale, Oregon, is a New York City-based artist. With a BFA from The Boston Conservatory of Music, Norlen was most recently in the closing tour company of Broadway's Kinky Boots. His podcast, Everyday Heroes, is a space where he elevates female identifying voices. Norlen is the creator of When the Lights Are Bright Again and writer of Defining Brave, his memoir. Follow his journey @Anorlen and AndrewNorlen.com.
Matthew Murphy is a New York City-based photographer specializing in theater, dance, and portrait photography. His work is featured in the books Hamilton: The Revolution, Come From Away: Welcome to the Rock, Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window, and Jagged Little Pill: You Live, You Learn. He travels worldwide photographing productions and lives in New York with his husband and their two dogs.
We communicate. That’s what theater people do. We reach out in the dark to illuminate the human condition. Cut off by the COVID lockdown it's amazing, although not surprising, that the theater people in this book still found ways to let the people in the dark know - You are not alone.
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 26 Aug 2021
""When the Lights Are Bright Again" by Andrew Norlen, Photographs by Matthew Murphy is a book about pain, hope and healing.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first started spreading quickly in the United States, theatre across the world shut down. So many people were affected and lost jobs. People struggled with their mental health (myself included). Broadway is a classic American artform and for the first time in history, it closed for such a long period of time and it was unheard of.
This book is a coffee table book containing letters from theatre people written to themselves once theatre reopens. I have a personal connection as I studied theatre, dance and singing for about 15 years. I was part of the first graduating class of a performing arts middle school, went to a performing arts high school, got a degree in theatre, and on top of that I grew up with my mom who owned a dance studio. I also spent many years teaching kids dance, and theatre to adults with special needs. When the pandemic shut everything down, my whole life was theatre and art. I thought I lost who I was. But the cool thing is, I found a love for books. I finally had time to read, and here I am, now a professional book reviewer. I was able to channel my artistry into something different, and this book often focuses on many people who did that.
This is why this book touched me so much. Andrew Norlen has done such an amazing job of putting all of these letters from the theatre community together, and they are complimented by stunning photographs by Matthew Murphy. Although some of the letters were tough to read and felt very personal, it is a special thing to be able to connect to the humanity in artists, people who I relate to most. Many speak of their whole lives having been ripped away due to the pandemic. Many speak of not being able to be creative. Others channeled their artistry into other things. People moved out of where they were living to survive-some back with their families. Many talk about all of the things they are trying to accomplish with being more inclusive in the theatre community and hoping that once theatre begins again, it can be a less toxic environment for all involved. Some letters were simple and the person just wished their future selves happiness and told them to shine their light in the way they were born to.
The beautiful thing is that there was no right or wrong way to approach writing a letter in this book. I do think, however, it works better as a coffee table book where you can ingest short bits over time instead of reading it as a whole, which can be a bit emotional.
I am so glad I had the chance to read this book and I thank Net Galley, Andrew Norlen and Applause Books for the ebook. I look forward to buying a copy when it is released for my collection."—Jeremy Juarez, educator at Seattle Education
NetGalley review: 5 stars
Last updated on 31 Aug 2021
"I feel so lucky and grateful to have had a chance to read this! The photographs are absolutely stunning, but it's the stories--poignant, reflective, funny, wistful, hopeful--that will just wreck you. One of the most profound lessons of the pandemic was how absolutely essential art, and artists, are to our joy, to having a life worth living. And yet, artists are some of our most marginalized brethren and are often forced to live in precarious situations as they create the art we depend on for color in our worlds. I'm glad to hear their voices amplified and to support their well-being.
This project was such a wonderful idea and a very worthy undertaking for a very worthy purpose!
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!"—L Gage, educator at BookWorks