The Theater and Entertainment Industry Needs Our Help!

By Linda Armstrong

Linda Armstrong photo

Theater has always been a gift from God in my mind and heart. When theater shutdown March 12, 2020 it was a world I had never experienced before. It was a world where COVID-19 took over people lives, people were made to isolate in their homes, people were dying at high rates and the pandemic is still happening. For those in the theater community, COVID-19 has meant having their livelihood cease and continue to cease into 2021. At this point, we don’t know when theater will start again. The Broadway League, which decides when theaters open, last said that a May 2021 date is possible, but not definite. There are so many things that have to happen to make sure that theaters are safe for both those on the stage, behind the stage and in the audience.

Since theaters of shutdown, various theater companies have started to offer productions done outside, on the street, live on YouTube and Zoom. The theater companies have included a lot of Black Theater companies like The Billie Holiday Theater in Brooklyn, New York. New Federal Theatre, Classical Theatre of Harlem, National Black Theater, Black Spectrum Theater, New Heritage Theater; and there were playwrights/performers like Debra Ann Byrd who created one-woman pieces and performed them. Experiencing the productions done live on these outlets was such a joy and in some cases, like the productions done by The Billie Holiday Theater, like “12 Angry Men and Women…”, the viewers were able to see how theater is dealing with the social justice issues that have come to the forefront in this country, especially since the murder of George Floyd.

In a time of great distress theaters have demonstrated a resiliency, and though they are offering productions live for free, they do offer means that viewers can donate to the theater companies. And donating to these companies is very important. People have to be able to live and pay their bills. It is incredibly important that people realize that during this time those in the performing arts are truly hurting. Recently televised on television, the program “One Night Only: Best of Broadway” presented performances from cast from various Broadway shows, done on the streets of the Broadway Theatre community. It did these performances and let viewers know that it was a fundraiser for Broadway CARES/Equity Fights AIDS. When we are in the theaters during a certain time of year, everyone knows that the theater community announces at the end of the performance that they are raising money for Broadway CARES/Equity Fight-AIDS and that the money goes to people in the performing arts and entertainment industry to help them with basic needs like medication, food, housing, health insurance emergency financial assistance, counseling services and so much more. In 2020 it also assisted with coronavirus-related expenses and other challenges brought about by the pandemic, Viewers were asked to go to COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, https://donate.broadwaycares.org and donate, thus far $8,065,975 has been raised, but if you are able, whatever else you can give would be appreciated.

In the first weekend in January, TikTok did a fundraising event, The Actors Fund COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund benefit and had a live performance on Friday night and then it was replayed Saturday and Sunday of the original musical, “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical.” Viewers were asked to donate amounts that started at $5. This new musical featured some top names in Theater and Television, including Tituss Burgess, Andre De Shields, Wayne Brady, Adam Lambert, Andrew Barth Feldman, Kevin Chamberlain, Ashley Park, Mary Testa, and Priscilla Lopez.

It was a partnership between TikTok, Playbill and Broadway for All. People can still go to https://actorsfund.org and donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund. When one goes to this website, if they are part of the industry and they are in need, they can apply for financial assistance.

I know that we are all waiting for the theaters to come back, but until that time, just keep checking the internet and different theater company’s websites to see if they are doing theatrical virtual offerings and if you see that they are and you can afford it, please financial support these theater groups. Let’s try to take care of each other during these unprecedented times. I hope God blesses us all and that we all can help to sustain all those in the entertainment business until we can get back to being in-person.

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