“Hii, I’m Todd Haimes.”
Any theatergoer worth their salt has heard that phrase countless times as the lights descend at one of Roundabout’s five homes. This simple greeting has become as much a part of the Roundabout experience as anything happening on or between its stages.
Which is why I’m here to make a gentle request: to honor the titanic legacy of Roundabout’s recently-departed head honcho, I’m asking for this recorded introduction to stick around for a few more years (at the very least).
To be clear, I wasn’t friends with Todd Haimes personally; my connection to him was forged solely through the work his company produced. But that’s the weird thing about subscription houses: frequent attendees begin to develop their own relationships with the theaters, informed by the nature and specifics of every visit. And because humans are obsessed with anthropomorphizing — or, at least, this human is — an artistic director starts to represent the entire theater. Obviously it’s a collaborative medium, and many people are responsible for a season…but it’s a trickle-down (trickle-up?) responsibility, and the crown can’t help but adopt the identity of everything and everyone in their care.
As a lifetime patron of Roundabout, every new production changes my relationship to Roundabout and, thereby, to Todd Haimes.
And even though his direct involvement in this relationship has reached its end, I guess I’m not ready for that final curtain to drop.
As kooky as it is to claim, Haimes’ pre-show welcome of, “Hii, I’m Todd Haimes” constituted a regular access point to the man above the curtain. There’s just that perfect hint of a delightfully slightly off-center personality in his line delivery, and delightfully slightly off-center has long been Roundabout’s MO. How he extends the “ii” at the conclusion of “Hi,” the ASMR-adjacent sound of his theater-appropriate whisper (think: library volume; Oskar Eustis’ dulcet tones strike a similar ASMR Muppet chord). For some reason, I felt like I knew him a little more thanks to this miniaturized window.
It transformed into a running joke — a loving jest, if you will — with my girlfriend; whenever we spotted him moseying around one of his buildings, we’d lean into the other’s ear, as if we had some important observation to make, only to utter:
“Hiii, I’m Todd Haimes.”
Leave it to Hot Toddy to turn four words into a component of the Roundabout brand, a sort of calling card that acts as a transitory bridge from the audience’s reality into the world of the programming.
Roundabout’s brand will need to continue to adapt and evolve over the tenure of the next leader — “interim” Scott Ellis is as good a choice as any — and they will get their moment…
But Todd’s moment shouldn’t be done yet. His mortal coil may have shuffled along, but his influence still rings through the halls of Roundabout. And “Hii, I’m Todd Haimes” can serve as a reminder of this fact, his literal voice ringing through the rafters and audience’s ears as they prepare for yet another installment in a lineage he helped build.
So goodbyee, Todd Haimes; theater wouldn’t be theater today without you.
And I hope to be hearing from you again for shows to come.