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Funding from federal relief bill could save local theaters hit hard by the pandemic


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The COVID relief bill that recently passed in Washington includes badly needed funding for theaters; nobody wants to see our performing arts institutions shuttered forever.

“We are reminded of the transformative power of theater as a space to heal, as a space to change lives, and as a space to celebrate our shared humanity,” said Jacob Padron, the artistic director of the Long Wharf Theater, at a press conference he hosted Friday morning.

News 8 Photo: Kent Pierce

Theater leaders from all over the state took to the stage in New Haven to sing the praises of $15 billion in federal Covid relief funding going to performance venues.

“They’re not only artistic treasures, they are economic drivers,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “They power our economy, they provide jobs and they draw people to restaurants and retail.”

Senator Blumenthal was one of the driving forces behind the help for theaters, whose stages have not seen any performances since March. If you ask people in the arts, the world is a little worse without those performances.

“Without the ability to gather, without the ability to be in person, we’ve witnessed how dark our times can be without the arts,” said Adriane Jefferson, New Haven Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The Save Our Stages funding should allow theaters to start ramping up for the day when enough people are vaccinated that they can open up again.

“Goodspeed’s pandemic shutdown resulted in the total elimination of 250 jobs,” said Donna Lynn Hilton, artistic director of the Goodspeed Opera House. “This funding is going to make it possible to begin our return to work.”

Theater leaders say that, if you want to help save our stages, you can subscribe to one, volunteer at one, or donate to one. The federal money is a huge help, but local and regional theaters cannot survive without public support.

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