COVID-19 & The Performing Arts: A World Without Theatre

Written by: Daniella Conde

When COVID-19 came along and turned our world upside down, in-person theatre performances became nonexistent. In an effort to curb exposure and comply with physical distancing requirements, theaters all over the world have closed down. Many performing arts institutions have begun to offer virtual performances, but the theatre community is undoubtedly suffering. 

In New York, all Broadway theaters shut down on March 12, 2020, and they are scheduled to remain closed until Jan. 3, 2021. Casts that had been rehearsing were suddenly left with nothing to rehearse for. Productions that were scheduled to continue through several months came to an abrupt halt. Theatregoers were stripped of the inimitable feeling that surged in their hearts when watching a live performance.  

Monetarily, this has been absolutely devastating for the theatre community; many have referred to it as an “economic tragedy.” Broadway grosses have become stagnant, effectively eliminating an enormous source of revenue for New York. Actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals are now facing major disquietude regarding the future of their careers. Many of the people who worked in the theatre industry every day are now being sustained by unemployment, making it increasingly difficult for them to afford New York City housing. 

Culturally speaking, COVID-19 has done away with a significant artistic outlet that meant a lot to both theatregoers and those who chose a career in the theatre industry. To countless people, theatre is synonymous with community. Theatre gives people validity, allowing them to not only express themselves onstage, but also to see themselves in the characters of their favorite plays and musicals. Theatre is a safe space for many people who may feel alone or rejected. It is a celebration of humanity: the highs, the lows, the inescapable emotions, the beauty, and the pain. All of the things that connect us come together onstage to remind an audience that we are not as different as we think. 

Comfortingly, the theatre community is resilient. They remain optimistic in the face of complete uncertainty, and they hope theatre as we know it will be back soon. For the sake of inclusivity and expressiveness, one can only wish that this hope reigns true. In the meantime, there are many charities taking donations to assist theatre artists and companies during COVID-19 shutdowns. If donating is not feasible for you, know that you can uplift the theatre community through encouragement. Remind the artists you know that they have dedicated their lives to something important, and that the world is anxiously waiting for them to return to the stage. 

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