New York Senator Chuck Schumer took to Times Square September 18 to advocate for the Save Our Stages Act, a bill he has co-sponsored that would provide relief to live venues across the United States that face severe losses of revenue and potential permanent closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Phantom of COVID has hit Broadway,” Schumer, standing in front of the red steps of the TKTS booth, said in some light-hearted opening remarks. “Revenues have been and still are totally Frozen, and thousands of hard-working Guys and Dolls from across this city are fighting hard to keep the stages alive, the stories told, and the shows going on. We’re fighting to make sure New York City and Broadway get a Lion King’s share of federal relief.”
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We urge Congress to pass the coronavirus relief bill. Our thousands of workers are struggling to survive - through no fault of their own - and need assistance NOW. Special thanks to New York’s own Senator Schumer who is fighting for working people and small businesses, including in our industry, with his support of the #SaveOurStagesAct and other vital support!
The bipartisan Save Our Stages, authored by Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn, would provide a total of $10 billion in grants over the next six months to live venues across the country. These funds would be flexible, reaching up to $12 million dollars for large-scale houses like Broadway theatres, to go towards keeping arts workers employed and such expenses as rent and mortgages.
Key members of the industry—including Broadway League Chair Thomas Schumacher, Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin, director-performer Schele Williams, and Tony winner Laura Benanti—were on hand to express support. Schumacher and St. Martin repeatedly emphasized that Broadway is the “heartbeat of New York,” citing that Broadway welcomed 14.77 million theatregoers last season (more people than New York’s 10 major sports teams combined), contributing to nearly $15 billion to the New York economy and supporting employment for roughly 97,000 people.
“It is vitally important to acknowledge the disparate impact this pandemic has had on artists and artisans and recognize the need to extend unemployment benefits,” Williams said following Schumer’s remarks. “We need Broadway to bring us all back together again. It will require a tremendous effort for theatres to restart, and it will take longer than we would all hope. That is why now, we need the government to support S.O.S.”
To ensure that happens, Schumer urged people to email their senators demanding they support the act in full.
Currently, all Broadway shows are shut down through at least January 3, 2021, but industry members and medical experts alike don’t expect curtains to rise to full houses again soon after that. In a recent interview with Jennifer Garner, Dr. Anthony Fauci hypothesized that once an effective vaccine is approved, it would take continued public health measures and a rollout of almost a year before maskless admittance at pre-COVID capacities would be feasible.