Hold, Please

Stage Managing A Pandemic

Non-Fiction - Memoir
576 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite

Hold, Please is Richard Hester's story of Stage Managing A Pandemic. It's March 2020, and the Coronavirus Pandemic is starting to take hold. At last, the President has acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, and panic begins to set in. Broadway shuts down, and Richard Hester, Broadway stage manager, spends his evenings watching TV, waiting for news. The weeks turned to months, and everyone changed. Millions died, and people were separated from their families and friends. George Floyd's death shocked the world and made us all aware of how we treated others. World economies shut down, and many people's jobs changed, not always for the better. If all this weren't enough, America was torn apart by the Presidential election and the Capitol Hill attacks. This book takes you on a wondrous journey in an attempt to make sense of it all and try to gain some perspective. The pandemic changed us all, and it changed the world, but some managed better than others.

Hold, Please by Richard Hester is an amazing book written by a clearly talented writer. Written almost like a diary, it chronicles events from the writer's perspective. It is, in many ways, a humorous yet bittersweet look at what are undoubtedly some of the worst years of many of our lives. But this isn't just about what we've been through; it's about where we are going, the direction we should take, and the attitude we should adopt to get through whatever life throws at us. Richard Hester has a gift; like you listen when a master storyteller begins to speak, so you feel compelled to read what Richard writes. And just to make things seem so much brighter than they were, his detailed stories of life under Covid intertwine with tidbits about his life in the theater. If you doubt what the world is now coming out of, I urge you to pick up this book and read it – you'll know exactly what it was all about, and you may even understand more about who you are as a person.

Asher Syed

Each of us has a story about the ways the COVID-19 pandemic adjusted how we lived and Richard Hester tells of his own experiences in the memoir Hold, Please: Stage Managing A Pandemic. Written in a chronological order that spans Spring 2020 to Spring 2021, the Hold, Please anthology is presented in a diary entry format. Hester, who has built a name and career for himself on Broadway, paints an almost all-encompassing picture of the minutiae of every single day while the world was at a standstill. This is punctuated on a daily and page-by-page basis with the carnival act of ill-equipped leaders and government officials who decide to take the alternative fact low road. He contrasts the ever-increasing wave of proof that to these same officials black lives do not matter with moments of beautiful humanity, compassion, and music against an election, an insurrection, and indefinitely empty theater seats.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am British and pay very little attention to what is happening with our (most of the time) much loved but so much louder cousins across the pond. Hold, Please was my initiation into what the pandemic was like for a couple living out the entirety of it in a New York flat. I also learned that the fear and confusion and erosion of faith was a phenomenon that transcended borders. Richard Hester walked me through each day of his pandemic life with a skillful blend of humor and horror. He describes familiar situations, such as creative graduation ceremonies for high school loved ones, to others that were not, such as working with Patti LuPone to raise millions of dollars. As a man of color, it was the overt, deadly racism Hester details while discussing politics, personal stories, and police brutality that cut the deepest. As a fur-father, it was the cats getting used to me always being at home that made me feel like I wasn't alone. Well written and well done.

Jamie Michele

Hold, Please: Stage Managing A Pandemic by Richard Hester is a compilation of non-fiction original work written by the decades-long Broadway veteran about what most Americans would consider to be their annus horribilis, the year that spawned the COVID-19 global pandemic. Hester's unique position in the live performing arts provides some perspective on the impact those of us outside the industry did not really see. But more than that, Hester pulls together the pieces of his own personal experiences as they were written at the time and allows us to reflect on the human element with a mixture of emotion that ebbs and flows in a linear motion through essays of an ordinary daily life in an extraordinary moment in time.

Hold, Please is a wonderful collection that feels like a ride-along with Richard Hester. I did not follow Hester as these individual pieces of a much larger puzzle were published to the public but am somewhat grateful for that, as it provides the ability to carry on in the tradition that was well established during the pandemic: I can binge it all at once. The writing is exceptional and there is a genuine sense of being on this journey with Hester in addition to our own. One can expect a lot of nodding and a feeling of camaraderie while reading. I was most touched by the things I had kind of forgotten about as we have moved past them, like how I did think it was possible for Donald Trump to win another term. I remember feeling it was life or death. I remember feeling it simply MUST not happen. What I had forgotten was the terror of what I thought four more years of the same may have looked like. I am now reminded and my memory on this and so much else is refreshed. I believe this book will be the heirloom on my shelf and a time-capsule of events as and when they unfolded. Very highly recommended.

K.C. Finn

Hold, Please: Stage Managing A Pandemic is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, contemporary writing, and arts and entertainment subgenres. It is intended for the general reading audience and was penned by author Richard Hester. As a prominent Broadway stage manager, the author’s entire working life came to an abrupt halt during the 2020 global shutdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the lights on Broadway went totally dark for an indeterminate amount of time, Hester sat back with the rest of the world to watch life unfold during the strangest times we’ve ever known. What results is a poignant, humorous, and relatable look at recent life that delivers many lessons on how we treat one another in modern life.

One of the things which surprised me most about this work was the compassionate perspective and uplifting tone that the work takes despite it being set during such a dark, difficult, and confusing time in all of our lives. Author Richard Hester brings levity and emotional balance to his work, and with a confident and engrossing narrative that is sure to draw readers of all kinds into his tale. I found the reactions around the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests to be particularly heartfelt and the experience of seeing that from within the United States, especially in a diverse place like Manhattan, brought the message home in an even more visceral and relevant state. Overall, books on the pandemic experience don’t get better than this, especially if you’re interested in social, cultural, and humanitarian issues in the world today. I’d highly recommend Hold, Please to one and all.

Foluso Falaye

Every part of the world felt the impact of Covid-19 during the unforgettable year of 2020. Hold, Please: Stage Managing A Pandemic depicts this challenging period from the perspective of a Manhattan resident who writes about his experiences in a daily blog and journal. As a Broadway stage manager, Richard Hester's work came to a complete halt when the pandemic hit the USA with full force. This began a demanding year that forced him to analyze his core values as he struggled to adjust to social distancing, idleness, and seeing the same two faces for long hours in a day. Apart from the global pandemic, Richard shares his opinions concerning the considerable amount of information shared through different media outlets during 2020, including the unjust murder of George Floyd, the BLM movement, and the controversial presidential election.

The amount of information about the history of the US that I learned from Hold, Please far exceeds that of any memoir I've ever encountered. That the concept of germs was not understood and many didn't consider washing their hands as important during a typhoid outbreak in 1906 was just one interesting fact I discovered. While comparing and contrasting the past and the present with a broad, comprehensive analysis, Richard Hester shares where he stands on different issues and emphasizes the value of accountability, honesty, and showing empathy for all humans, no matter the age or race. This book was worth every second I spent on it! The world needs more writers like Hester, who are brave and honest enough to tell the truth about humanity's shortcomings and contribute to achieving a future free of past failures.