For months I’ve been having conversations with friends and colleagues in the arts about our impending loss. As the world of live entertainment remains shuttered the questions are clear: What arts organizations are we going to lose this time? What entertainment professionals – performers, directors, designers, musicians, dancers, technicians and all of the rest – are we going to lose because they simply cannot wait for work to return? How many are going to leave their calling and turn to another career simply because they have to do something else to put food on the table?
On Saturday an article in the New York Times gave us a glimpse of the answer.
During the quarter ending in September, when the overall unemployment rate averaged 8.5 percent, 52 percent of actors, 55 percent of dancers and 27 percent of musicians were out of work, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. By comparison, the jobless rate was 27 percent for waiters; 19 percent for cooks; and about 13 percent for retail salespeople over the same period.
Real people are suffering real harm and the president and the republican party have been uninterested since Day 1. One of my friends, a Broadway stagehand, is now working in the stock room at Williams Sonoma. Another, a production manager, is taking well over $1,000 per month out of his retirement accounts to keep his growing debt manageable. A third, a designer, has become a house husband, living off of his spouse who (thankfully) is still employed.
“My fear is we’re not just losing jobs, we’re losing careers,” said Adam Krauthamer, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians in New York. He said 95 percent of the local’s 7,000 members are not working on a regular basis because of the mandated shutdown. “It will create a great cultural depression,” he said.
While the president has finally signed the relief bill, the break in benefits will be a burden to many. More importantly, giving $600 to people who are already employed doesn’t help those who aren’t. Targeted relief to those who need it most would have been a much smarter response.
The performing arts are in a coma. No one knows when they will receive some sort of life support. If you are able, consider making an end of year donation to one of these worthy charities.
Actors Fund currently has a $50,000 match offer, doubling your gift! Founded in 1882, The Actors Fund is a national human services organization here to meet the needs of our entertainment community with a unique understanding of the challenges involved in a life in the arts. Services include emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health care and insurance counseling, senior care, secondary career development and more.
Behind The Scenes provides financial assistance to entertainment technology professionals in need due to serious illness or injury.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS funding supports AIDS relief organizations, national disaster relief, food service and meal delivery programs, research initiatives, emergency assistance, and more. This year, BC/EFA also established the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, administered by The Actors Fund, to help entertainment professionals facing health care crises and other immediate needs due to the coronavirus.
If you’re looking for other options, Playbill has list of 40 theatre-related charities you can consider.