People who work in the industry have spent months rallying for support and say it’s only a start.
Rachel Chavkin, the Tony Award-winning director of the 2019 winner for Best Musical “Hadestown,” and hundreds of other artists successfully lobbied Congress for financial help, and now, $15 billion from the recently signed stimulus bill will go to independent performance arts venues around the country.
“Hadestown,” like the rest of theatre, has been closed since March 12.
“The theater industry was one of the first to close, and it’s going to be one of the last to reopen, and so we are going to need extraordinary help,” Chavkin told CBS2’s Dick Brennan.
The pandemic is particularly hard for so-called “gig workers,” people who move from one project to another.
“Why has it been that they were not able to get some of the benefits that so many others who were out of work were able to get during the pandemic,” Brennan said.
“Help was a little slower in coming than the initial money that was able to flow directly through the unemployment system, and, of course, if you are not paid on a W2, you cannot get unemployment in that traditional way,” Chavkin said.
With Broadway closed and fewer tourists visiting the city, businesses and restaurants in the surrounding area are also suffering.
“It’s all an ecosystem, and I know that people within the arts community have been profoundly devastated for every restaurant worker and every parking garage attendant who is dependent upon the life that the theater industry brings to New York,” Chavkin said.
It’s not just Broadway. The pandemic’s impact on cultural arts extends well beyond New York City and the Tri-State Area, and Chavkin plans to appeal to the incoming Biden administration.
“It does seem like there is bipartisan support, and I am extremely hopeful that the Biden administration will take seriously the need for major increased investment,” she said.
She applauds the support so far from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Music venues, the theater industry, arts are not at their core left-wing or right-wing. They are not blue or red,” Chavkin said.
Brooke Ishibashi is an actor and one of the co-founders of the grassroots organization Be An Arts Hero, formed during the pandemic to highlight the importance of arts and culture.
“So we have friends and colleagues who are in their 50s, who have moved back home to live with their parents … who are getting bumped off their health insurance, who cannot afford life-saving medication during a deadly pandemic,” Ishibashi said.
As for the future of theater in New York?
“Do you imagine a different world, not just Broadway and off-Broadway, but in the entertainment industry in Manhattan, in the Times Square area, is life going to be different?” Brennan asked Chavkin.
“There’s no place like New York, and it always has recovered, and what I do think is that we’re going to see more emphasis on Tri-State, metro-area audiences for a while, and I think that’s really cool,” Chavkin said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is looking at possibly using rapid testing to help safely reopen Broadway and other performances spaces.
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