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Theatre Tallahassee Issues A Plea As Area Nonprofits Postpone Shows

A partially built set includes a ladder and assorted risers.
Theatre Tallahassee

Tallahassee’s rich local arts scene is facing an unprecedented challenge. Theatre lovers are worried as COVID-19 has postponed or cancelled numerous stage productions.

“To lose most of the season is devastating,” says longtime local theatre director Jeff Mandel. He says a shutdown of theatres would leave a terrible void.

“Local arts companies – and I don’t just mean theatres, I’m including other forms – are generally living on the financial edge all the time,” Mandel says. “These are not well-endowed companies that have big reserve funds. Every one of them struggles year to year to put on the shows, and to suddenly have a year or half a year of no shows wipes it out.”

Theatre Tallahassee, located on Thomasville Road in midtown, sent supporters a bleak email this week. It explains that a dozen nonprofit theatres in this area are facing a major loss of revenue.

“Theatre Tallahassee, actually 68% of our budget is earned income from ticket sales,” says Theresa Davis, executive director of Theatre Tallahassee for the last 9 years.

The theatre was in rehearsals for A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder when the stay-at-home orders were issued. The show is postponed, and performers are still managing to rehearse remotely via Zoom.

Since the theatre is facing the potential cancellation of at least one show this season, Davis is asking for help to keep the arts thriving in Tallahassee.

If you removed art from society, what kind of life would we have? ~Theresa Davis

“TV, movies, virtual concerts, museum tours – art is key to helping society cope right now,” Davis says. “If you removed art from society, what kind of life would we have?”

Credit Jessy Reaves
Cast members rehearse "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" before Theatre Tallahassee had to close because of the pandemic.

The theatre’s email blast asks for continued support of all the local nonprofits through donations and the purchase of gift certificates for future productions. Davis also hopes theatre-goers will return as soon as they’re allowed.

“Come back to your theatres and support us,” Davis says. “It’s going to be new territory for us because everyone’s going to be a little scared to come to an auditorium for months to come.”

The theatres also hope supporters will ask their legislators to continue funding the arts.

“We love the arts here in town. We realize there are many other needs right now, including desperate ones,” Mandel says. “But we hope those who can will support us so that the local arts scene survives this terrible pandemic.”

Email from Theatre Tallahassee:

To Our Local Theatre Fans, Friends, and Family:

Right now is an unprecedented time for our community, and the local theatre community will likely be hit especially hard. COVID-19 has caused a great deal of change, and we are all facing a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Currently, our leaders are making the hard but necessary choice to ban mass gatherings of people, and nobody is sure how long this may go on for. This directly affects theatres, as we will most likely be unable to host shows and sell tickets for an extended period of time. Theatres are facing a major loss in revenue because of this. In addition to the impact on our organizations, the performers, artisans, and administrative staff of local theatres are also likely to have personal financial struggles through the coming weeks.

We are coming to you now to ask for your continued support of local theatre, even as we temporarily shutter our doors. There are three easy ways you can help support us through these uncertain times: make a donation, buy a gift certificate, and talk to your legislators.

Make a donation. All of the theatres listed in this letter are nonprofit organizations. That means that we re-invest any profits we make back into our mission, rather than paying shareholders. As nonprofit organizations, it also means we can accept tax-deductible donations! This is by far the best thing you can do right now to support your local theatres. A pledge for monthly support is also a wonderful way to provide sustained support as we work to recover in the coming months. Finally, if you bought a ticket to a show that gets cancelled, consider turning the cost of that ticket into a donation, rather than asking for a refund.

Buy a gift certificate. Many local theatres have the ability to issue gift certificates that patrons can use for future shows. Please check with the theatres you frequent, and inquire if they can sell a gift certificate. Treat your future self to a night of entertainment, and once life returns to normal we look forward to welcoming you into our theatres!

Talk to your legislators. In the coming weeks there will likely be bills put forth on the state and national levels for economic relief for those affected by COVID-19. Please reach out to your legislators and let them know that nonprofit arts organizations and artists should be included in these relief packages.

We can make it through this together, but local theatres need your support to help weather this storm. Even once COVID-19 passes, theatres will still be facing financial gaps and tight budgets, and will likely be asking for your donation to offset our losses. Please have patience with us. We are all dedicated to bringing you amazing theatrical experiences We look forward to seeing you once again at our theatres.

Until then, stay safe and healthy. This too shall pass.

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Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.