Performing arts is a huge part of my life. I sing everywhere I go; school, the street, my room and of course the inevitable dance to go along with it. I’ve been like this from a very young age. From Year 2, to be exact, when I went to watch my first ever musical on the West End: Matilda. I was awed by the talent and graciousness of the performers. Of course, being of such a young age I may have been more naive to the complexities of these productions, but looking back eights years later I can safely say they were everything and more.

Theatre elevates us and the economy

Just like me, there are millions who rely on theatre to provide an uplift in their everyday lives. Whether it’s listening to cast recordings on Spotify, or going to a live performance (pre-Covid, of course) I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people have taken pleasure or benefitted from the entertainment the performing arts industry provides. Including those in power. So, why is it that not enough is being done to support the actors having to face unemployment caused by the pandemic?

The arts industry is a huge part of the global economy. In 2018, the theatre industry attracted about 34 million people, in the UK alone and around 73.5 million in the USA. When it comes to theatre, visiting shows and plays should be seen as a privilege. A tremendous amount of work from both cast and creatives is put into the enjoyment of people all around the world, every single day. In 2018, Broadway contributed around $14.7 billion to the New York City economy, whilst the UK theatre industry contributed around £32.3 billion to the British economy. With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it’s extremely difficult to tell when theatres will be back. We could sit around listening to the promises Boris Johnson vows to keep, but too many times have these been in vain. And with inaction and unwillingness to speak the truth, comes even more vulnerability that theatre just can’t afford.

The show must go on — but when?

Now, it’s not all bad. You could note that the UK government announced an investment of £1.57 billion in emergency funds to support the arts and culture sector. However, with 290,000 jobs at risk, hundreds of shows to support and an amount that only represents a small fraction of what the industry makes for the UK economy annually, we have to understand that this is not enough. Theatres were forced to close in the middle of March, and yet it took the UK government nearly five months to provide a bailout that was too little and too late! The huge winter spike in coronavirus cases, in the UK, controversially welcomed the reopening of a number of theatres. For a while, there was false hope that they would not be forced to close again so soon. However, after playing just a few performances this hope was shattered. The government recklessly overlooked the impact this abrupt move would have on thousands of actors’ lives and their mental health.

Over in the USA, Broadway has faced a span of uncertainty, false hope and devastation over the last year. It shut down on March 12th 2020, and with the surge in the number of deaths and cases remaining high, the future lies extremely uncertain for the potential reopening date of May 30th 2021. That’s over a whole year without theatre. A whole year and some with thousands in the industry unemployed and unsure if they’ll ever get to perform again. Needless to say, the former US government’s response and unwillingness to cope with this pandemic has put a huge strain on theatre. One can only hope that President Joe Biden delivers on his promises and turns Trump’s disgraced legacy around.

The result of this inaction has meant the permanent closure of a number of shows, including Tina Fey’s 12 times Tony-nominated Mean Girls on Broadway, most recently starring Sabrina Carpenter in the main role and joined by a primarily new principal cast including Olivia Kaufmann, Laura Leigh Turner, and Chad Burris. As well as this, Broadway announced the closure of the smash-hit Disney musical Frozen, starring the first-ever African-American Elsa, performed by Ciara Renée. This was joined by Beetlejuice the musical, starring Tony nominee Alex Brightman, whose run was cut short despite having a closing date of June 6th 2020 to make way for Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in The Music Man.

What you can do to help

So, with millions left without jobs, what can we do to help? Well, there are many ways to go about this. If you’re just looking to support the industry but aren’t interested in the performing aspect, you can donate to the Actor’s Fund for American Actors or the Actor’s Benevolent Fund for British Actors. These organisations provide financial aid to those struggling and help support them throughout this pandemic and beyond. If you do have an interest in the performing arts and would also like to help, why not take a look at the following websites: Artists and Beyond, Broadway Booker and Broadway Plus. These are just a few of the companies that provide one-to-one coaching, Q&As, workshops and more from professional actors to anyone out there.

As well as this, the absence of live theatre has meant the introduction of virtually streamed theatre productions. These include the recently streamed production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Olivier-award winner Sam Tutty and Emily Redpath in the title roles. YouTube has also been instrumental in giving access to some of the best past productions, including A Streetcar Named Desire with Jillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois and many more.

Theatre is a community where people come together, it is a vital, cultural experience to which everyone should have access. And so, it must be protected at all costs, whatever it takes. The pandemic has been devastating for this industry, but we mustn’t lose hope. Theatres will be back. The show will go on.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.