Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of Stage Directions. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Editor’s Note for August | Too Big to Fail

Michael S. Eddy • August 2020Editor's NoteIndustry News • July 22, 2020

As Congress is working on its fourth package of federal relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is still much more work to be done to support theatermakers and theater companies. My Editor’s Note, Too Big to Fail for the August issue of Stage Directions magazine focuses on the incredible economic engine that the Arts and Culture sector is to the U.S. economy. 

Too Big to Fail – Editor’s Note August 2020

The week of June 30, 2020 cold reality was put into a press release for the theater industry. Back in early March, I would never have imagined every segment of the arts and entertainment all shutting down at once, all around the world. Theater was one of the first industries to close down and it is increasingly clear, we will be among the last to reopen. The week of June 30th, the Broadway League announced that Broadway theaters would be closed until early 2021. Off- and Off, Off-Broadway, regional, and LORT theatres looked to follow a similar timeframe for reopening cancelling previously postponed seasons and moving to announce 2021-22 seasons instead. This end of small step postponements but clear statement bears out the challenges faced both in terms of safety and economic viability for theaters to reopen and it means the massive unemployment of the theater industry will be for months more.

When General Motors was in trouble in 2008 and had to be bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, it was labeled as ‘Too Big to Fail’, an economic juggernaut concept that was a central player in the auto industry bailout. In 2017, GM’s overall sales were $145.59 billion. In the same year, 2017, the Arts and Culture segment contributed more than $877.8 billion to the nation’s economy. If you want to compare the economic juggernaut, the arts and culture industry is really ‘Too Colossal to Fail’!

The Arts are a huge economic driver in cities in towns all across the country. The typical nonprofit theater attendee spends another $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission. This additional spending supported an indirect 2.3 million jobs, provided $46.6 billion in household income, and generated $15.7 billion in total government revenue, according to Americans for the Arts. Sustaining our entertainment sector and its more than 5 million direct employees nationwide is essential to the stability of communities across the country. The huge return to local economies is born out in study after study on the impact of live performing arts. The Arts is undeniably an essential economic engine.

The current losses sustained by the Arts and Cultural sector throughout the nation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have reached a staggering $6.7 billion as of June 15, 2020. We need the government—Federal, State and Local—to realize the importance of getting the Arts and its workforce back on its feet. The Arts & Culture sector needs to be acknowledged for its ‘Too Big to Fail’ contribution to our economic recovery. I urge everyone to write, email or call your national senators and congress members as well as your state representatives. No one bill or initiative will be the last act solution, we all need to keep the pressure on so our industry, our theaters, our colleagues and ourselves get heard regarding the myriad of needs from grants, economic packages, rent and business loans, unemployment coverage, to health coverage. We are resilient in theater and we can make our voices heard well beyond the back row of the balcony!

Michael S. Eddy
Stage Directions Magazine


Contact Congress

We need to keep our elected officials informed about concerns and losses that are not being addressed and tell them about theater’s unique capacity to support the U.S. economy, uplift the human spirit, and provide lifelong learning.Please feel free to use the key points included below if you email your Congressional Representative or Senator. (This points are also being presented to the Opera community as distributed by OPERA America.)

Key Points:
As Congress and the Administration prepare additional forms of COVID-19 federal assistance, we call for relief that will sustain the arts sector’s unique capacity to support the U.S. economy, uplift the human spirit, animate the issues of our time, and provide lifelong learning. In the months and years to come, the country will need the arts and culture sector to deliver on its unique mission and to catalyze economic activity. The unexpected loss of revenue and the declines in charitable contributions are immediately damaging arts organizations and individual livelihoods and will worsen over time.

The arts sector serves artistic and educational missions through myriad occupations filled by individuals who work in full-time, part-time, hourly, seasonal, and freelance capacities. In March 2020, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the arts and culture workforce contributed $877.8 billion, or 4.5 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. The arts sector is an economic engine that—prior to the pandemic—directly employed more than 5 million workers. The next COVID-19 federal relief efforts should support the arts workforce and arts sector continuity.

Theater companies will be an essential partner in jump-starting local, state, and national recovery efforts during and after COVID-19 and are innovating to provide online arts experiences and distance learning opportunities. The unexpected loss of event-dependent revenue, income for theatermakers, and declines in charitable contributions is mounting and will only worsen over time. The next relief package can provide essential investments in sustaining the arts.

Support the Arts Workforce and Arts Sector Continuity:

  • Expand and recapitalize the Paycheck Protection Program resources, eliminate the 500-employee cap, and remove restrictions for self-employed applicants. Extended duration, expanded eligibility for those that have been left out, and new opportunities for those that have exhausted initial funds are urgently needed for arts organizations of all sizes to support the arts workforce and serve communities.
  • Provide additional forgivable Main Street Lending Program loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, tax credits, and other forms of support to nonprofit organizations of all sizes and to self-employed workers, sole proprietors, and small LLCs. Authorize and require the Federal Reserve to quickly finalize a nonprofit lending facility under MSLP that is tailored to accommodate mid-size nonprofits, including a loan forgiveness option.
  • Expand the duration of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and improve guidelines for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance implementation so that designers, technicians, artists, and other gig economy workers with mixed income sources receive full support.
  • Treat nonprofits that self-fund unemployment insurance fairly by increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-funded nonprofits to 100% of costs. Reverse the Labor Department interpretation requiring upfront payment of the full amount of unemployment benefits to states by enacting S. 4209, which the Senate passed unanimously.
  • Increase charitable giving by expanding the above-the-line, universal charitable deduction tax incentive for non-itemizers to one-third of the standard deduction, as supported in S. 4032/H.R. 7324, and extend this and the CARES Act removal of the Adjusted Gross Income limitation on deductibility of charitable gifts through 2021.
  • Enact and expand grant and funding programs, such as the proposed WORK NOW Act to help nonprofits retain employees and advance their nonprofit missions, and approve substantial funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services, as they administer dedicated COVID-19 relief that uniquely addresses the operational needs of cultural organizations. Expand waivers for public/private matching requirements to apply to all active FY19 and FY20 NEA grant awards, provide flexibility for sub-granting, and allow current grantees to re-allocate funding for general operating support that helps to address COVID-19 economic losses.

Support Ongoing Creative Sector Activity:

  • Support a complete education for all students through federal education funding and distance learning resources that will ensure equitable access to arts education for all learners amidst the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
  • Adopt an emergency broadband benefit to ensure that all people, no matter their income or location, have access to high speed broadband.  Ensuring connectivity enables more equitable participation in artistic, educational, and cultural activity taking place online.
  • Expand access to health coverage and care by including a one-time special enrollment period in relief legislation and removing barriers to health coverage for arts workers that have atypical employment structures.
  • Provide assistance for single- and multi-employer pension funds.
  • Enact policies that will ensure rapid processing of the artist visas that are essential to supporting international cultural activity as performances are rescheduled.

Support the Arts in Safety and Infrastructure Policies:

  • Support the arts and work of theatermakers as essential infrastructure investments that build a strong cultural infrastructure, create art that enriches our lives, and use an arts-based approaches to public works and community development initiatives.
  • Include the arts sector in consideration of public health and workplace safety policies to protect the health of arts workers, support the needs of arts venues, and ensure public confidence in gathering again.
  • Provide eligibility for arts facilities in infrastructure investments needed to renovate, refurbish, and adapt to post-COVID-19 public health protocols.
  • Ensure the arts are considered in business interruption insurance and liability policy discussions, as the policy outcomes of both areas will influence the near-term reopening plans and long-term viability of American arts and cultural organizations.

There is growing support for these requests, and your voice will join others in the arts and nonprofit sectors!

While very many areas of support are under discussion, your message should be concise, focused, and specific to your role in the theater industry and/or your theater company. Consider using the talking points when contacting your members of Congress and choose key areas of focus:

Compose Your Message

US Senators
US Representative


Please make sure to describe local impact when you write to your elected officials – this personalization distinguishes your messages from the many form emails they may be receiving and discarding! Just be aware that the same message will go to all of your officials at once, so don’t address your officials by name in the message below.

[Sample Email Begins]

Support Relief for Theater Companies and Theatermakers Impacted by COVID-19

Body of Message
Dear (fill in Senator and/or staffer name):

As Congress considers the next package of COVID-19 federal relief, I write to urgently seek your support. Theatermakers and theater companies, and the broader arts and culture nonprofit workforce, are experiencing extreme, unprecedented, and sustained financial losses, even as we innovate to seek new ways to serve our community. Please increase federal assistance during this critical time, including expanding the Paycheck Protection Program; providing forgivable loans for all sizes of nonprofits to support workers, operating costs, and mission-critical activity; expanding and improving pandemic unemployment benefits and providing 100% coverage for nonprofits that self-fund; increasing charitable giving incentives; and, approving substantial additional dedicated COVID-19 relief funding administered by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Please keep theatermakers and theater companies in mind as the federal government continues to provide economic relief in response to COVID-19. My nonprofit organization is an employer with a mission of serving the public; it is essential that federal relief is accessible to all arts workers and the communities they serve. Thank you for your help!

Title, Company
City, State

[Sample Email Ends]

How to Contact Your Elected Officials

Here is a list of the e-mails of the Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for every Senator. It is of the utmost importance that you contact the Senators this way, as the e-mail to the Chief of Staff and Legislative Director is the shortest route. For the Congress, you will need to enter via their general portal found at You will then need to cut and paste the above letter into the box provided. It is critical you contact your Senators and Congresspeople as soon as is possible.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!