What the $2 trillion stimulus means for the arts and artists. Summer canceled too? Hope goes online. #Stageworthy News of the Week

Congress passed, and the president signed, a $2 trillion stimulus deal that includes specific relief for arts organizations and artists, although advocates say not enough.

Officially titled CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), the law gives $75 million each to The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to pass on to institutions that need it and $50 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services. There was also $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center (although it didn’t stop the Center from laying off all 96 members of the National Symphony Orchestra with only a week’s notice.)

Arts advocates had asked for $4 billion.

“Germany has rolled out a staggering €50 Billion ($54 billion) aid package for artists and cultural businesses, putting other countries to shame” –Artnet

“Although $150 million isn’t chump change, it’s only 3.75 percent of the original ask. You could film a season of Westworld with that money; you will obviously not be able to restart an entire sector.” – Helen Shaw, New York Magazine.(who is counting just the NEA and NEH grants.)

“,,,the institutional damage done by the coronavirus looks at first glance to be especially devastating to theater. Even the biggest regional theaters have either laid off staff or are days away from doing so…Imagine, then, the plight of the smaller companies, the no-budget storefront and off-Broadway houses whose risk-taking productions supply the artistic fertilizer for America’s theatrical culture. Many of these groups—perhaps most of the smaller ones—simply won’t reopen when the crisis abates. As for the actors, directors, playwrights, designers and other professionals who make sure there’s a show onstage when the curtain goes up…well, they’re in can’t-pay-the-rent trouble…” — Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

Still, other provisions in CARES will likely aid these theaters and individual theater artists (F.A.Q. on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Plan – NY Times.)

  • The $1,200 “paycheck” to individuals making less than $75,000.
  • $377 billion for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, which may offer a boon to eligible arts businesses and nonprofitsJamine Weber, Hyperallergic
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance  that includes coverage for furloughed workers, freelancers, and “gig economy” workers, which describes, for example, almost all actors, directors and playwrights. The bill increases such payments by $600 a week for four months, in addition to what one claims under a state unemployment program. – Hayley Levitt, Theatermania

What the theater industry would hope for the future:

“One of the things we’re talking about internally,” TCG’s Corinna Schulenburg told Helen Shaw, “has been the way in which the scale of this catastrophe — a wholesale shutting down of the field — is only really comparable is the Great Depression. We’re looking at 20 percent or higher unemployment! So what lessons can we find in the Federal Theater Project?” Under the New Deal, the government’s super-spending effort that put America back to work in the ’30s, the Federal Theater Project only accounted for 0.5 percent of the Works Progress Administration spending, which, if you applied that to the current bailout, would come to $10 billion. Schulenburg has dreams for that money. And oh, oh, oh — a new New Deal is a heady thought. We’re still surrounded by the structures the WPA gave us, including dams, bridges, airports, roads — and, yes, our regional theater system. Maybe a new one could bring it back.”

Summer theater canceled too?

Three Broadway shows that were scheduled to open in April are facing facts, and moving to sometime in the Fall: Roundabout’s “Caroline, or Change” and “Birthday Candles” and Lincoln Center Theater’s “Flying Sunset.” Since both “Hangmen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” announced they would not be returning at all when Broadway resumes, that leaves 11 shows still officially scheduled to open in the 2019-2020 Broadway season.

No surprise: The 74th Annual Tony Awards  will be postponed to a date that will be determined after Broadway reopens. It was originally scheduled for June 7th

A bad news/good news announcement: Ars Nova has canceled the remainder of its 2019-2020 season, originally set to conclude on June 30, 2020. But it’s committed to paying all 150 staff, crew and cast through June 30th.

New York City Center has announced the cancellation of Thoroughly Modern Millie, an  Encores concert scheduled for May 6-10,


“As nonprofits around the country cancel all spring programs, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival halts performances through Labor Day, and will lay off 80 percent of its staff….Lincoln Center Theater has decided to move two summer productions to next season; the Public Theater says it is awaiting guidance from local officials before determining what impact the pandemic might have on its popular Shakespeare in the Park program. And in the Berkshires, a summer destination in Western Massachusetts with a rich concentration of cultural institutions, Barrington Stage Company has already canceled its first production, which was scheduled to run from mid-May to early June….“ — Michael Paulson, NY Times


Hope Goes Online

James Corden in One Man, Two Guv'norsA huge amount of theater is going online, which I’m trying to track by continually updating my roundup, Where To Get Your Theater Fix Online, Old Favorites and New Experiments

Some highlights in the  last week:

TrickleUp, a new “grass-roots subscription platform”  for $10 a month, hopes to raise money for artists in need.  Launched March 23 by a group of downtown artists and artistic directors, It promises “videos of solo performances, conversation, and other behind-the-scenes goodies,” Its catalogue so far features such fare as Taylor Mac reading scenes from “Gary”, Sarah Ruhl reading some of her poems, Mia Katigbak singing La Vie En Rose, Dominique Morisseau doing a monologue from Skeleton Crew, Suzan-Lori Parks singing “Colored All My Life,” Lucas Hnath reading material cut from his play “A Doll’s House Part 2″

Starting April 2nd, and every Thursday thereafter, ‘National Theatre at Home” will stream FOR FREE on its YouTube channel a production from its NT Live collection, recordings of their stage productions that are such high quality that they are normally presented in cinemas worldwide. The first production online April 2 (and for seven days after that) is “One Man, Two Guv’nors,” the slapstick comedy with a Tony winning performance by James Corden.

PBS  has unlocked a selection of its shows in its Live From Lincoln Center and Great Performances series, from April until the end of May. These includes a few of my favorite things (yes, “The Sound of Music” — not the movie — as well as “Red” and “Present Laughter.”)

Playing on Air, a decade-old podcast of original radio plays, announces its star-studded season of ten plays, unfolding each week through the end of May.

There is new immersive theater for the age of self-distancing. For details on these and other virtual theater, again, check out Where To Get Your Theater Fix Online, Old Favorites and New Experiments

My reviews of Theater Wit’s Teenage Dick and Rattlestick’s The Siblings Play, both stage plays that were recorded right before the theaters were shut down, and now presented online.

Other Theater News:

a closeup of the Coronavirus

Broadway and the Coronavirus: Updated Questions and Answers

Jennifer Schantz, an executive at the New-York Historical Society, will lead the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which is home to more than 8 million items relating to music, theater and dance.

Advice and Uplift

Step-by-step advice for surviving isolation from an astronaut, a journalist, and a political prisoner, who each spent long stretches alone: Read. Exercise. Laugh.


Rest in Peace

Playwright Terrence McNally, 81, from complications of the coronavirus. (“Theater Changes Hearts…”:My gallery of scenes from some of his 36 plays and 10 musicals, plus his Tony Award acceptance speech..)

Mark Blum

Actor Mark Blum, 69, from complications of the coronavirus.A familiar presence on the NY stage: nine-time Broadway veteran (Assembled Parties), 26 Off-Broadway plays (Rancho Viejo, Amy and the Orphans),teacher (HB Studio)

David Schramm, 73,  Broadway veteran and founding member of The Acting Company best known for playing Roy Biggs in the television series Wings

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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