American Theatre Wing Establishes COVID-19 Response Effort For Off Broadway & Regional Theater; Obie Awards Go Virtual

Courtesy American Theatre Wing

The American Theatre Wing has announced the first phase of its National COVID-19 Response Effort, including rapid funding mechanisms to support Off and Off Off Broadway as well as the nation’s regional theater community.

“When the arts get lost or diminished in the conversation about federal relief, we rely on the non-profit sector to ensure that a ‘full recovery’ includes the true pride of our nation: its cultural institutions and the artists that make them shine,” said American Theatre Wing President & CEO Heather Hitchens in a statement. “This is just the first step in what will be a long road back, but it’s a vital one.”

She continued: “Providing relief during dark and difficult times is baked deeply into the Wing’s DNA and, just as we have since our founding in the midst of World War I, we will rise to the occasion and serve as a beacon of light and hope.”

The Theatre Wing, a presenter of the annual Tony Awards, also will begin a new series of online educational offerings “to continue its mission of enriching and empowering students and emerging leaders.”

Also announced by the Wing was the postponement of this year’s 65th Annual Obie Awards honoring Off and Off Off Broadway, originally scheduled for Monday, May 18. A new date for the awards ceremony was not announced, but the event this year will be online only. In addition to the awards, the virtual ceremony will “shine a light on the loss of the productions that were in rehearsal and performance at the time the theaters closed.”

The Tony Awards, presented by the Theatre Wing and the Broadway League, was previously postponed from its scheduled June 7 to a to-be-determined date.

The Wing’s relief funding announced today comes in two separate programs: the Theatre Artists Relief Fund for Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway, and the National Rapid Relief Fund for the nation’s regional theaters.

The Theatre Artists Relief Fund is a $250,000 pool designed to get $500 grants “directly into the hands of artists.” The money is available to eligible theater workers from the more than 90 Off and Off Off Broadway productions that were shut down due to the coronavirus.

The Wing has created an online resource database to assemble a list of theaters, productions, freelance artists, technicians, and theater workers affected by the shutdown. People working on the shuttered productions may each receive $500 in aid by registering via a form on the Wing’s website. The Wing urges theater artists unintentionally excluded from the list to apply for aid, but cautions that the limited pool of funds will be paid by check on a first come, first serve basis.

The fund was created by The Wing with input from the Obie Awards’ Judges Panel, with financial support by the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust and the theatrical production company No Guarantees.

For regional theaters, the National Rapid Relief Fund will make available immediate gifts of $1,000 to each of the 82 prior recipients of National Theatre Company Grants. The complete list of eligible regional theaters can be found here.

Regarding the Virtual Master Classes, the Wing offer a new series via Zoom and Facebook Live that will feature an array of theater talent, and the organization’s The Network (formerly known as Theatre Intern Network) will move online. More information about these online resources will be available shortly at the Wing’s website.

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