The curtain goes up on Broadway’s struggles during COVID-19
Broadway’s COVID-19 closure prompted an emergency relief agreement, as reported by the New York Times. This short-term pay deal guaranteed certain wage periods for most unionized employees. But come April 12, those employees will now lose access to health care benefits.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a state-wide ban to reduce the density of people across the state via Twitter on March 11. This included an immediate closure of Broadway, which Cuomo said theatres agreed to.
The announcement saw the Broadway League and The Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds negotiate a deal for furloughed workers from 30 running commercial shows and three in production. The finalized version isn’t finalized itself; producers and the League have agreed to discuss the terms if COVID-19 closures extend.
“We are a community that cares about each other, and we are pleased that we can offer some relief,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said in a press release.
Below is an explainer chart for the short-term pay deal.
|March 12 -March 15||Normal salary with 150 percent cap of minimum salary||Full Benefits|
|March 16 -March 29||Contractual minimum||Full benefits|
|March 30 – April 12||No pay||Health Benefits Only|
Although the agreement was arranged to fit the April 13 opening date, the Times reported a likelier reopening in May or June.
However, the Broadway League didn’t apply their agreement to all Broadway productions. Six slated plays, the running “A Soldier’s Play” and five other plays set to premiere this season, were excluded from this package, according to the Times. The non-profit theatre companies in charge of those plays had to lead their own directive, of which two out of four chose to pay all or some of their workers.
Broadway shuttering down largely impacted shows slated to premiere soon, such as “Hangman” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Actors have found unlikely ways of financially helping theatre employees. One such person was Rosie O’Donnell, who hosted a YouTube live-stream of her talk show. According to the Guardian, proceeds from the video went toward the Actors Fund, an organization supporting entertainment workers. Producer James Wesley and SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky have started a daily live-streamed concert series Stars in the House to encourage donations to the Actors Fund, according to Playbill.
“Now more than ever, people in our community are depending on The Fund’s vital services,” the Actors Fund Chairman Brian Stokes Mitchell said. “It’s critical that we be there for those in need, in particular our seniors and the immuno-compromised individuals who need our help, as well as those in financial distress.”
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, another Broadway-focused non-profit, launched an COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund. The organization’s website outlines the fund providing on-stage and backstage workers with coronavirus-related expenses, emergency financial help, health insurance, and other resources. The organization set a goal of $1 million by April 12, with an initial $250,000 donation to the fund. Since then, actor and Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda raised $52,000 during a special segment of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: At Home Edition, according to the organization’s website.
“When crises hit, the extended Broadway community and the theatre fans everywhere have always responded with generosity, compassion and action,” Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS executive director Tom Viola said on their website.