The Performing Arts are in a Coma

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.

Broadway to Remain Closed Through May 2021

Two weeks ago the Metropolitan Opera announced that it was cancelling its entire 2020/21 season. Today, the Broadway League announced that Broadway performances would remain suspended through the end of May 2021.  Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, said,

With nearly 97,000 workers who rely on Broadway for their livelihood and an annual economic impact of $14.8 billion to the city, our membership is committed to re-opening as soon as conditions permit us to do so. We are working tirelessly with multiple partners on sustaining the industry once we raise our curtains again

The announcement effectively cancels the 2020/21 Broadway season leaving a question about what will happen with next year’s Tony Awards. More importantly is the question of what will happen to all of the artists and technicians who work on Broadway whose 39 weeks of extended unemployment benefits will run out in December of this year.

If you care about the future of the performing arts in America, contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to pass The Save Our Stages Act (S. 4258) which has been trapped in committee in the Senate since July 7th. Introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), it provides vital support for performing arts venues that have lost nearly 100% of their revenue since the pandemic began in March.  The companion bill in the House (H.R. 7806) is led by Representatives ​Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX).

Red Alert September 1

Red Alert is a nationwide event taking place on September 1, 2020 to call attention to the plight of all live event/entertainment workers who have no work, no income and seemingly nowhere to turn for help. Consider this:

  • Live events employ over 12 million people.
  • Live events contributes over $1 trillion annually to the US economy.
  • 95% of live events have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
  • 96% of companies have cut staff and/or wages.
  • 77% of people in the live events industry have lost 100% of their income, including 97% of 1099 workers.

On September 1st, 2020, #WeMakeEvents, a coalition of trade organizations, businesses, unions, and live events workers, will light up their venues, homes, and cities in red at over 1,500 locations across North America to raise public and media awareness in support of the live events.

That’s a great idea! How can I help?

  1. Share your story about what live events mean to you, whether you’re on stage, backstage, or in the audience.
  2.  Light up your home, porch, apartment, etc. in RED on September 1 — be sure to take photos and share them on social media!

Is this for real?

Absolutely! We personally know directors, designers, production managers, stage hands, stage managers and performers who haven’t worked since March, and who have no expectation of going back to work before March of 2021 at the earliest. Yes, unemployment insurance has been extended (at least in New York), but without the extra $600 unemployment for many is only enough to cover rent – so all other expenses have to be paid with savings, for as long as savings last. How many of us have enough savings to cover 12 months of expenses? And let’s face it, with an average of one million new unemployment claims every week for over 20 weeks, almost no one is going to “Find Something New”.

All of the theatres that Studio T+L has designed over the years are dark. The venues that are in construction will sit empty when they are finished. We know that many people are hit hard by the economic impact of the corona virus, but the entire live entertainment industry closed. Please do what you can to help!

Thank You!