STAGE Act, Aimed at Saving Non-Profit Theatres, Introduced in Congress | Playbill

Industry News STAGE Act, Aimed at Saving Non-Profit Theatres, Introduced in Congress

The measure would provide $1 billion annually to an industry still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Public Theater

The Supporting Theater and the Arts to Galvanize the Economy (STAGE) Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate April 9 by a trio of U.S. Senators, all Democrats, including Peter Welch of Vermont, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, and Jack Reed of Rhode Island. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Democrat Representative Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon.

The measure is aimed at helping to support non-profit theatre companies in the U.S., many still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In just the past few months, major cuts were revealed at Chicago's Steppenwolf and Lookingglass, Off-Broadway's The Public Theater and Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group.

The STAGE Act would provide $1 billion annually to support the industry, with grants available to theatres to help cover rent and payroll along with other costs. The legislation would also create avenues to study how best to ensure sustainability in U.S. theatres going forward.

READ: The STAGE Act: How It Could Save Non-Profit Theatres, and How You Can Help

The legislation was initially revealed in September 2023 at a Washington, D.C. event with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phylicia Rashad on hand to voice their support. The effort is a spiritual successor to the Save Our Stages Act, which provided $16 billion to live performing arts venues when they were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The STAGE Act is the brainchild of the Professional Non-Profit Theatre Coalition, which comprises artistic, managing, and executive directors from more than 140 theatres across the country, founded by former Oregon Shakespeare Festival leader Nataki Garrett. The coalition worked with strategists from Arnold & Porter to develop the legislation, along with a plan to get it introduced and passed into law.

The Coalition's work with the firm began earlier in the pandemic when theatres were having trouble getting access to the COVID relief packages that had become a lifeline for so many other industries. Through their work together came the SOS Act, which has been credited with saving the industry—but only for that moment in time. The STAGE Act will be a critical next step to saving non-profit theatres and making sure they have the wherewithal to flourish in the years to come.

"The STAGE Act provides critical funding to non-profit theatres and shines a spotlight on the vital roles our organizations play in our communities," says Oskar Eustic, artistic director of Off-Broadway's Public Theater and a founding member of the Professional Non-Profit Theatre Coalition, in a statement. "Non-profit theatres are not only cultural beacons but also employers, educators, and workforce development centers. Unfortunately, our field is still endangered by the impact of the pandemic and economic headwinds, with dozens of theatres having closed and many more struggling to stay afloat. This bill provides much needed support for the work that we do and acknowledges the significant impact we have in the communities in which we operate. We applaud Senators Peter Welch, John Fetterman, Jack Reed, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici for their leadership and support for our industry."

"Non-profit theatres bring people together to experience impactful live performances that resonate with diverse audiences," adds Senator Reed. "They put community, public good, and artistic expression above profits, while also driving additional economic activity whenever they stage performances. The pandemic took a serious toll on non-profit theatres. The STAGE Act shines a spotlight on the important work these theatres and artists do and offers much needed support to continue their mission. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in cosponsoring the STAGE Act to keep non-profit theatre doors open so they can continue to engage audiences, promote the arts, and strengthen our communities."

The legislation's introduction is part of the inaugural National Theatre Week on Capitol Hill, with theatre leaders and industry professionals from across the country scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of the industry.

Find the full text of the measure here.

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