The Scene

Curtains Closed: How DC's Burgeoning Theatre Scene Is Adapting to COVID-19

NBC Universal, Inc.

With public mass gatherings cancelled, the performing arts are suffering.

Actor’s Equity, a national actors’ union, recently called the Washington, D.C., region one of the fastest-growing theater towns in America. But, it’s been nearly two months since dozens of local theaters sent actors home and went dark because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are more than 90 professional theaters in the D.C. region. Most of them count on ticket sales to keep creating their art. When our region started shutting down in early March, 30 productions stopped. Soon after, shows were canceled for months to come.

Actors, technicians and designers usually work as contractors.

“A lot of people… had jobs lined up for the whole year that all suddenly disappeared,” said Theatre Washington President Amy Austin. “So, it was a shock to the system. People are finding their ways back and finding things to do.”

Theatre Washington has created an online clearinghouse of things theaters found to do called At Home with Washington Theater

Theatres have turned to social media and their websites to show past performances, offer master classes and hold conversations with theatre lovers among other things.

Theatre Washington has also set up the Taking Care Fund to offer small grants to theater professionals who are out of work due to the outbreak. Individual theaters are also soliciting online donations so they’re still here when the art world can reopen.

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