Curtain Down, Chin Up: How and Why You Must Save Live Theatre Right Now

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It is with a heavy heart that I write today. One of America’s greatest playwrights, Terrance McNally, died of complications from the coronavirus on March 24. Ordinarily, there would be a spate of revivals of his many award-winning plays, such as the hilarious The Ritz, adapted for a motion picture…Kiss of the Spider Woman…and the recently revived Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune.

Instead, all theaters are in forced retreat from the onslaught of the coronavirus. We all must do something to save theatre right now. Theatre is fragile. It might not come back in the way that we know and love it. All we need do to be a hero is to register our love of theatre by watching online offerings and donate, no matter how small a sum.

Ask yourself this question—how would your life change if there was no live theatre available to you?

You might answer, Sorry, Adriane. I am not a theatergoer, so the impact would be small. If that is your response, you may not realize the hideous effect that losing the performing arts will have on all of America, whether we love theatre or not.

Let me explain, by posing another question to you.

How much did entertainment contribute our economy last year? Answer: $41 billion. Yes, movies, TV and video games constitute the bulk of this mega-economic honeypot. But today, with streaming, video plays, TV cable, social media—it is impossible to separate the impact of live theater from the economics of entertainment as a commodity.

Scratch a writer for Amazon or Netflix Originals, and you will find a theatre major underneath. Live theatre is the crucible from which many of our creatives were molded in our high schools and colleges. And despite the reprehensible shoe-string funding for the arts, we do a pretty good job of bringing creative kids from kindergarten to the stage…to the big screen…to the little screen to generate billions in trade.

Aside from the mega-economic view, consider that live theater builds local neighborhoods. Broadway is crucial to tourism in New York City, but it also is essential to Bushwick, Brooklyn. This neighborhood is one of the many rags-to-riches areas in the US stimulated and thriving because of street art and theatre. Where there is live theatre, there is life—restaurants, housing and increased property values that benefit you, even if never buy a ticket.

Look around you, wherever you live. I guarantee that your local theatre is a hub of commerce and social activity.

There are many ways—small and large—to support theatre so that it will still be there when coronavirus isn’t.

Why not turn off Game of Thrones for a minute and binge-watch live theatre on TV and all your devices? Start with Theatre Without Theater on Instagram, “designed to fill the void.” These are often one-person productions done from a living room, snippets of new plays and musical tidbits.

Want a dose of the Bard himself. Check him out on the American Shakespeare Center’s site.

Want more?

Vimeo fans, checkout Abrons Arts Center’s, which offers performance documentation. Highbrows, checkout Lincoln Center at Home. And regardless of the height of your brow, check out Feinstein’s/54 Below.  I can’t wait for Tovah Feldshuh: Aging Is Optional on Friday, April 17, at 6:30 PM.

And when it comes to direct donations, there is a cast of thousands.

Is the coronavirus sequestration leaving you bored at home? Start a fundraiser. One easy way is to ask friends to participate in the Broadway Hand Wash Challenge. They can donate and record themselves washing their hands for 20 seconds while singing their favorite show tunes. I thought of The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow but defaulted to I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair.

Or create a theatre charity. Here’s how.

Log onto GVNG.com and register your charity free of charge. It’s easy. Have a name and address ready. The folks at GVNG will put you under their California 501(c)(3) umbrella, and any donation you get will be tax-deductible to the donor and tax-free to your cause.

GVNG takes 5% of the gift for their service. You can then give the dollars to any arts charity of your choice. GVNG even provides a free website that you can craft to your liking for your instant charity for the arts.

Just keep laughing

In my opinion, standup comedy is the most fragile and most basic of the performing arts. The original guy to make folks laugh and cry is purported to be Thespis. His ability to land a joke pleasing to Athenians made his name the name for all actors since the 6th Century BC—thespians. So, pay 20 bucks and support stand-up comedy at Broadway Comedy Club.

Finally, if you have a ticket for a canceled show, forgo your refund. It will help. And if you are not a theatergoer, buy a gift certificate for a friend who is, and buy today. The curtain will go up tomorrow.

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