We all miss the theater, during the COVID-19 pandemic. But our favorite theaters are unable to create any theater at all. As you can imagine, our theater artists are scared: Without the income of ticket sales and ongoing support from donors, how will they create art when the pandemic ends?
The time to step up and help our theaters is now. They may run out of funds if we simply wait for them to reopen.
Barb Weinberger, executive director of Pegasus Theatre in Dallas, currently faces that struggle. Her company’s signature show, Living Black and White, usually includes a New Year’s Eve performance followed by an after-party. This year, it has been canceled out of concerns for the safety of the audience, cast, and crew.
Although the company is committed to producing something online in January, Weinberger offers five suggestions in the meantime to keep our theaters strong during this challenging time:
Donate. Even if the theatre is not producing anything at the moment, they have expenses. At a minimum, they have to pay liability insurance, worker’s compensation, licensing agreements, and perhaps some staff salaries. If the theater has a fixed performing space, the multitude of facility costs is added. Imagine the terror of watching any reserves you have zero out.
Subscribers who didn’t get to see all of the promised shows can donate the balance of their subscriptions or let their subscriptions roll over to the following season. Theaters need what little cash they have to stay open and will appreciate not having to pay refunds.
Offer to help. Do you have skills in fundraising or accounting? Many theaters are working to strengthen their organizations, and you can be a part of that. For example, Pegasus Theatre is using this time to revisit theater governance, expand diversity and inclusion practices, and shore up fundraising efforts.
Reach out. It’s a lonely and sad time for many people, and that includes theaters — which, after all, are made up of people serving others. Send a note of support and express your eagerness to come back to the theater when it’s safe to do so. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
Buy a ticket! If your favorite theatre is producing something online, go ahead and buy a ticket. They’ve put time and money into staying connected to their audience; reward them with ticket purchases and encourage your friends to do the same. Show our theaters you want them to thrive by hosting a watch party and spreading the word.
Nancy Churnin is the author of eight picture book biographies that have won the Sydney Taylor Notable, South Asia Book Award and Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People and been honored on numerous states reading lists. A native New Yorker and former theater critic for The Dallas Morning News, Nancy is a Harvard University alumna, with a master's from Columbia University. She lives in North Texas with her husband, a dog named Dog and a cantankerous cat. Nancy's books are available at our Grand Times Bookstore
and independent bookstores. You can also follow her on Twitter @nchurnin.