They hustle for it, working odd jobs to make ends meet, sharing tiny apartments, huddling in long lines to audition for just a handful of highly coveted roles.
But the brilliant lights of Broadway have been dark for nearly a year.
And its 41 theaters, including iconic century-old ones like the Belasco, Lyceum and New Amsterdam, will likely remain closed for many months, despite ongoing discussions about potential safety measures, like a cap on audience sizes or requiring attendees to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test.
The situation is dire for many of the 97,000 people who rely on Broadway for their livelihoods and for New York City, which benefits from the almost $15 billion generated by the industry each year.
Beyond the economic impact, the price of countless crushed dreams is perhaps even greater, according to longtime Broadway performer Reed Kelly, whose stage credits include "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," "The Addams Family," and "Wicked."
"I've lost three people this year to suicide," Kelly says. "And that's on top of the people I know that have actually died from Covid. It's not just a job for us. This is our lives."
Gabrielle McClinton, who was last seen on Broadway in the role of Annie in "Chicago the Musical," echoes the heartbreak and hardship endured by many in New York's tightknit theater community.
"So many people have lost their jobs, and not just the actors, dancers, and singers (but also) the musicians, ushers and crew people" McClinton says.
Reed's and McClinton's dedication to their craft has taken them to the other side of the world, literally.
Nearly ten thousand miles from Broadway, in Sydney, Australia, live theater is thriving.
The city is one of the few places in the world where performances are open to the public.
'Making it work'
In December, Kelly and Australian acrobat Jack Dawson, who form the aerial straps duo Two Fathoms, debuted "Kismet," a four-minute act performed in front of a live audience at the Sydney Trapeze School and then released as an online film.
"Right now, this is really the only place that both of us can be and do what we do," Kelly says from the school.
What they do takes hours of daily practice and, for Kelly in particular, deep personal sacrifice.
He and his husband Balmeet, a doctor in Los Angeles, have been apart for almost a year.
But if Kelly leaves Australia, he won't be allowed to return, given that the country has banned entry to all non-residents since March of last year.
McClinton just returned to the US after spending several months in Australia playing a leading role in the musical "Pippin," which enjoyed a two-month run at Sydney's Lyric Theatre.
She says the success of live performances in Australia "absolutely" gives her hope about Broadway.
"(In Australia) people are making it work. I know it can work, because we did it. I think if everybody complies, we can make it happen (on Broadway)."