The Media School

Save Our Stages can help local venues gain lost revenue and remain open during the pandemic

April 21st, 2021 by
Photograph by Noah Gastineau

Long time donor and patron Susan Jones has not been able to go to BPP in person for a year now due to the pandemic. Many of these venues and businesses use Zoom to do shows to try and keep going during the pandemic.

Longtime donor and patron of the Bloomington Playwrights Project Susan Jones has not gone to BPP much during the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of going into the building she enjoyed seeing shows in, she would have to rely on Zoom to see BPP performances.

“Now we do all the plays and performances online,” she said. “This past year I’ve hardly been to the theater.”

Jones and others are unable to go to local venues and other places due to the pandemic. The lack of people going and seeing in-person performances caused these businesses to lose money. The Save Our Stages stimulus bill was recently passed by the US Congress and can help these local venues receive a return on some of the ticket sale revenues they lost from the pandemic.

This bill could help Jones and others walk back into the theaters and other local venues that they love one day.

The Save Our Stages is a $15 billion package that is supposed to help local and independent venues. This is a bipartisan bill that is part of the $900 billion COVID-19 Response and Relief Act. Local venues can recoup some of the revenue they have lost during the pandemic, but the bill caps it off at $10 million for each business.

Photograph by Noah Gastineau

Von Welch, President of the Board of Directors at BPP, hopes this bill can help save local venues and he wants to use any money that BPP gets to go towards it's employees.

Chad Rabinovitz, producing artistic director at BPP, said the Save Our Stages bill will be a great help for the local venues, but the money from the bill is not a guarantee.

“We don’t know yet,” he said. “It kind of mimicked what happened last year with the Payment Protection Program that all the businesses lived off. Every day was a new day of information or no information. We finally got a clear idea this past week of what the standards are.”

Rabinovitz said BPP officials will apply for a grant from the bill, detailing what the theater  has lost from the past year. They need to apply quickly before all the money runs out, and they lose their chance. BPP plans to do shows even if they are unable to get money from the Save Our Stages Bill.

“We’re fortunate that our organization, as small as we are, we have saved well so we’re prepared for a disaster,” he said. “It’s not like we have to worry if the rest of the season doesn’t go well that we can’t exist. But we have to make money.”

“We’re fortunate that our organization, as small as we are, we have saved well so we’re prepared for a disaster. It’s not like we have to worry if the rest of the season doesn’t go well that we can’t exist, but we have to make money.” – Chad Rabinovitz, producing artistic director, BPP

Jones and other BPP patrons participate in the shows the BPP has been doing over Zoom. One of their shows “Chopped” is similar to the television show from Food Network. Another one allowed Jones and the other participates to paint on mini canvases.

Von Welch, president of BPP’s board of directors, wants to see the money from the bill used towards the staff and help keep the business running even through the next year.

“This will help restore some of those savings,” he said. “I expect us to not be able to be at full capacity for 2021-2022. Hopefully, this will let us get through that without undue stress because I don’t think this will be over in just a snap.”

Jones is unsure if BPP will return to full capacity even after the pandemic ends, but she is pleased with the government wanting to get involved and help these businesses.

“I think it is a good thing,” she said. “Every little bit helps, and it really is a stimulus because the theater will use the money to employ people and use it for other services to help improve BPP which is good for the economy.”