Acclaimed Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern is in a coma after suffering a violent attack on the street last week. The 87-year-old woman was shoved to the ground on Thursday night outside of her apartment building in Manhattan, according to a report by Deadline. Police have security footage of the attack, but so far no leads on the assailant.
Gustern has a long and illustrious career in musical theater, notably coaching the cast of the 2019 production of Oklahoma! by director Daniel Fish. She was reportedly on her way to a venue called Public Theater's Joe's Pub on Thursday, March 10 to see a student perform when she was attacked. As Gustern left her building, a woman came up behind Gustern and shoved her to the ground. It's not clear what the attacker wanted or if she fled immediately after the push.
Gustern was with three other students on Thursday night at the time of the attack. One of them, Barbara Bleier, posted an account of the situation on Facebook. She said that Gustern was conscious immediately after the attack, but was bleeding badly. She reportedly became less coherent as they waited for an ambulance, and ultimately lost consciousness.
Gustern's grandson posted further messages on Facebook, explaining that the coach slipped into a coma after that. She has reportedly been unconscious ever since. She was intubated at the trauma center, and doctors say there is no guarantee she will awaken.
"Should she awake, she will most likely suffer speech problems and may be unable to move her right side," her grandson wrote. "It is a very serious injury."
Gustern reportedly suffered severe brain trauma including a brain bleed. She has already undergone one brain surgery and is in what doctors consider a stable condition.
Before losing consciousness, Gustern reportedly described her attacker as a woman in her 30s with dark hair, wearing a black jacket and a white dress or skirt. An eye witness backed up this description and the security images available seem to verify it as well. Crime Stoppers NYPD later publicized these images in hopes of identifying the woman.
The attack took place in the Chelsea neighborhood on West 28th Street. So far, the police have not announced any leads on the assailant and no arrests have been made. The Broadway community is devastated by this attack and continues to discuss it on social media.