Give Theaters and Performing Art Centers a Voice

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Since March 2020, there has been a moratorium on theaters & performing arts spaces throughout New York State. Many revenues have decided to wait out the shut-down with plans to reopen in March 2021. As it stands, Governor Cuomo has not given any clear indication when any of these venues can reopen, has not provided any guidelines into the safe opening of these venue, or has engaged in any dialog into reasons why theaters cannot resume operations. 

There may be a direct correlation with how Broadway and other NYC-based venues are handling the situation and how these decisions affect the rest of theater companies & performing arts venues across New York State. Apart from health risk factors associated with a 500+ seat venue, these larger venues are compromised by reducing the seating due to social distancing, and so as a result, have stated they cannot operate at 50% or lower capacity then mothballing operations until Spring 2021. Unfortunately, the health concerns with a 500+ seat venue, and financial concern associated with reducing capacity, may be directly handcuffing performance spaces with capacity of 150 seating or lower to this business model. 

We urge that Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lieutenant Kathy Hochul and US NYS Senator Charles Schumer consider separating how Downstate and Western New York cultural venues are viewed during the COVID 19 pandemic. We also urge these individuals to engage in dialog that addresses guidelines into reopening, set a plan & date when to reopen all theaters and performing arts centers, and understand the difference between smaller capacity venues in comparison to their larger contemporaries. 

We also urge these political figures to review the economic impact this moratorium has on smaller capacity theaters and performing arts venues.  Small budgeted theater companies and performance arts venues rely heavily on ticket sales to generate revenue to offset rent, utilities and other operating costs. There is a distinct budget difference between the smaller performance spaces and those theaters with 250 to 500 seat capacities.  Smaller theaters and performance venues can operate under these lesser numbers due to restricted budgeting, managing costs, and programming that reduces spending. Even at a 50% capacity, they can generate income to cover costs. This is not the case with these larger venues and Broadway union houses. They cannot operate at 50% capacity and a potential major reason why there isn't a cohesive push to reopen until March 2021. 

With the current the current health crisis, the emphasis on risk and what is essential is always forefront. Smaller venues can minimize the risk by reducing occupancy. This reduction with spacing chairs and a strict mandating of mask wearing at all times during the performance is a strong attempt at maintaining guidelines for the safety of all. Additionally, smaller theaters can implement programing that reduces the amount of actors on stage, run-times, and personnel needed to operate the productions. These smaller spaces can easily control the traffic flow and avoid congregation of patrons in the space. They can invested in PPE's and can develop accurate health monitoring programs for actors and personnel. All these safety measures can be achieved because of operational scale. 

Under the current shut-down, smaller theater companies and performance venues are financially hurting due to lack of generating revenues. They need Governor Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Hochul, and US Senator Schumer to understand that they are essential to the community.  They are essential because they provide jobs, are an economic engine for community businesses, and give back to the community through culturally diverse programming. They even provide distractions to those who are suffering from depression, anxiety, isolation and other mental issues people are now facing in these times of global pandemic, political & social crisis, and uncertain economic futures. 

They need an ear regarding this. They need a outline for how small performance space companies can reopen or have the option to reopen. They need your voice in getting our elected officials to listen to the community. 

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