In a scenario that is right out of a strange Sci-fy picture, the entire country is headed into lockdown and all theatre is dark. For how long? We don't know.
Last Wednesday, when things started getting sketchy, and it was apparent that we were being forced into an emergency hiatus, many New York City productions began to panic and scramble. Theatre companies from Broadway to community theatre, some already in the middle of their run, had to make the tough choice of whether to close or postpone. It was not an easy call.
At that moment in time, some companies like Theater For The New City embraced the mantra that the Show Must Go On, and announced that they were planning to keep their shows running. They quickly sent out emails saying that they would step up efforts to disinfect their venue and that the shows would indeed move forward. At The 13th Street Repertory Theatre, on the other hand, Artistic Director Joseph Battista chose the path of caution and cancelled everything even before all productions were forced to close. He immediately shut down and cancelled the 2nd, and final weekend of The Jerry Duncan Show. The show that was supposed to follow in late March, Punchline: a Love Story in Four Rounds, quickly announced it would postpone hopefully until July. It all became a moot point when Broadway was forced to shut down completely and suddenly everything was written on the wall: The shows would NOT go on...
Earth shattering news to just about anyone, soon and all other venues, shows, live entertainment, bars and restaurants followed suit under government mandates. Never had we seen a situation exactly like this. In fact, this is new territory for most of us, and the questions keep pouring in.
For producers and other artists, this event is not only devastating, but creates a chain reaction that affects more than just theatre producers. Producers and Self-Producing artists, as well as many theatre companies are not only looking at tremendous financial losses ahead, but at the trickle down loss of talent, funding, venue availability, and so much more. Bars, restaurants, support staff like lighting and sound, printing services, and more are impacted. Some businesses and support staff may never bounce back, and it could take months to get things back to some normalcy.
So what does the future hold? What can we expect? How can we plan what’s ahead? All these legitimate questions cannot be yet fully answered. But, the questions still swirl, and the calls and emails have been pouring in, from our advertisers, clients and prospects (which for LocalTheatreNY.com have dwindled to zero).
So what now?
Our choices are limited: forge ahead, risk be damned, or pull out until more is known. Or, another choice: take a deep breath and gather as much reassurance, intel, and feedback as possible. Know that the venues, the theatre producers, the festival producers, the backers, and even our audiences all have some sense of our worries and are prepared to have that discussion.
Right now, all we know is that everything is closed indefinitely. So we wait. If you have put a deposit on a venue, or started pre-production on your production, waiting may still better than closing. But what if your plans or money are already in the hands of, say, theatre festivals or a venue? What happens with submission deadlines, fee payments, and production dates that are in the hands of others and out of your control? What do you if you’ve been accepted to a festival or have signed a contract?. What assurances can you expect if delays and closures continue for months?
LocalTheatreNY.com, as part of its continuing coverage of local theatre in the NYC area, decided to ask the major theatre festival producers in New York City for a statement about the current situation, and the future of their festivals. Here is what they had to say.
New York, New Works Theatre Festival - Gene Fisch
NYNW is a project where the Entertainment community gives back to the artist…. As we all await confirmation on theatre availability we continue to support artists in their time of need. The Broadway community has always supported NYNW and we will continue to review submissions without any fee to the artist. Every submission continues to be reviewed by at least one Broadway producer. We have always accepted submissions regardless of financial position as the end game is to get great work onto the stage. In difficult times we need to come together as a family. Speaking for the team, helping others helps us through a challenging time.
Find NYNW at nynwtheatrefestival.com. Mr. Fisch is sharing a support link for artists in need on his site, with a donation link. Please visit their website for any details.
RAVE Theatre Festival - Valerie Novakoff, Davenport Theatrical Enterprises
Thanks for bearing with us during this hectic time.
First, we're sending positive thoughts to those who are ill and those who are susceptible to illness. We're remaining positive that we will be able to proceed with our festival, which begins July 24. But as the situation is rapidly changing, we'll be closely monitoring and following the advice of the CDC. Of course, if our festival is canceled, all fees would be refunded. In the meantime, we're sponsoring a free virtual festival to keep us all doing what we all love to do . . . creating! For more details on our virtual festival, click here.
The Riant Theatre and Strawberry One-Act Festival - Van Dirk Fisher
The Riant Theatre and Strawberry One-Act Festival hopes that everyone is in good health and safe during these uncertain times. Our commitment to providing a nurturing environment to develop new plays and outstanding artists is stronger than ever before. We will always celebrate the artists and offer opportunities for them to create and challenge themselves. To that end we are planning our next festival for August through October at ARTEL Hotel in Brooklyn, NY. If we have to make any adjustments to the starting date due to the current ban, we will make those adjustments once the ban is lifted for Performing Arts Centers. In the meantime, playwrights can submit plays to the Strawberry One-Act Festival online at https://filmfreeway.com/JocundaMusicFilmandTheatreFestival
The deadline is March 20th. The extended deadline is April 20th.
Check out more information about ARTEL and our Festival by clicking HERE.
Rogue Theatre Festival - Allison Hohman
Rogue Theater Festival is moving forward in hopes that we as a community will be in a better place come August and our festival of new works can go up as planned at 13th St. Repertory Theater. We are brainstorming additional ways to make our festival a fun and positive experience for everyone who is able to participate starting from the moment they’re accepted. Can we organize a virtual meet and great if needed? Encourage online read throughs of pieces that other participants can stream from home? Create fun writing exercises for our playwrights to keep creative juices flowing while stuck at home? We are also considering offering a scholarship spot (or two) for artists who were majorly affected by COVID-19 and would be unable otherwise to participate in the festival. It’s vital to make sure artistic opportunities can still be available for everyone now and always. Most importantly we are encouraging our artists to remain calm and positive in this time and to continue to create.
The Broadway Bound Theatre Festival - Rick Sayer
Come August the world will need theatre and BBTF will be there to provide it. No reason to worry.
Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival - Michael Scott-Price
Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival is accepting applications: February 17, 2020 to May 17, 2020. The early bird submission fee is $30 for submissions until March 29. Starting March 30 the general submission fee is $40. We would notify productions of acceptance between May 18 to May 30. The $600 participation fee is due by June 19, 2020. Dream Up Festival website: https://theaterforthenewcity.net/?vh_show=theater-for-the-new-citys-dream-up-festival-2020
If Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival 2020 is canceled because of Coronavirus, we will refund the full $600 participation fee.
Theater for the New City is doing everything possible in the meanwhile to stay in compliance with requests from our Mayor and Governor. We look forward to the public joining us again. In the meanwhile, they can join the TNC and Dream Up Festival mailing lists by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
FringeBYOV - Elena K. Holy
Since FringeBYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) is not until October, and also because of the rapidly changing landscape, we are not committing to any plans today, but instead, beginning to think through multiple scenarios. As you know, following our "Blank Canvas" year we reimagined The NEW York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC + FringeBYOV) and envisioned converting to a platform that all of indie performance could access, leveraging what we'd built over our first twenty years. When our community begins to start to approach thinking through how we might rebuild indie performance, particularly in NYC, we will likely invest more in that direction. But it will take all of us coming together - the way indie always does. In the meantime, everyone needs to concentrate on their own well-being and that of their neighbors and families during this extraordinarily challenging time. Please don't stop making your art.
Planet Connection Theatre Festivity - Glory Kadigan
The Planet Connections community is continuing to present a season of work by invitation only. Next up we will be presenting a series of plays written by our writers during the theatrical shut-down. Assistant Artistic Director Kim Jones, Managing Director Jenna Lazar, Assistant Managing Director Ariel Francoeur and myself, continue to look for ways we can inspire and support our artists creative endeavors throughout this challenging time. I urge everyone to reach out to other community members, even those they don't know that well, to check in on them. We are being asked to socially distance ourselves but for many artists, our community has always been a welcoming family, support system, and nurturing environment. It's important to maintain that support during these times. It's an active role, not a passive one. Let other community members know, that though the lights on the stage have dimmed, they have not been forgotten. And one day, those lights will shine again.
After repeated requests, we have no response or statement from...
New York Theatre Festival Competition - Franco Moschetti and Suzanna Bowling
Clearly, there are quite a few more festivals out there. If you are thinking of submitting to any theatre festival in New York, the States, or abroad, we suggest that you ask whatever questions you may have before you commit. At LocalTheatreNY.com we care about the festivals and want them to succeed, but we want to make sure you get any answers you can.
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