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American Theatre Wing Launches Relief Fund for Theater Artists Across the Country

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • April 7, 2020

Immediate round of grants being offered to *all* previous national theatre company grant recipients to support and sustain 82 regional theaters from coast to coast

Launching new series of live online masterclasses and other virtual educational resources

The 2020 Obie Awards ceremony is being reconceived as a virtual event, and will be available for online viewing at a date t.b.a.

The American Theatre Wing has outlined the first phase of its National COVID-19 Response Effort, which includes brand new, rapid funding mechanisms to help support and sustain the theater community at both the local and national level, as well as a series of new, online educational offerings to continue its mission of enriching and empowering students and emerging leaders. Details of these initiatives follow.

Those wishing to support the Wing’s efforts to uphold the national theater community during this time of unprecedented need can make a donation by visiting

“When the arts get lost or diminished in the conversation about federal relief, we rely on the non-profit sector to ensure that a ‘full recovery’ includes the true pride of our nation: its cultural institutions and the artists that make them shine. This is just the first step in what will be a long road back, but it’s a vital one,” said American Theatre Wing President & CEO Heather Hitchens. “Providing relief during dark and difficult times is baked deeply into the Wing’s DNA and, just as we have since our founding in the midst of World War I, we will rise to the occasion and serve as a beacon of light and hope.”

The Wing has also announced that the 65th Annual Obie Awards, originally scheduled to be held at Terminal 5 on Monday, May 18, will be postponed and reconceived as a virtual event, with awards being handed out for shows that opened between May 1, 2019 and March 12, 2020. Additional details on the 2020 Obie Awards ceremony, New York’s preeminent celebration of Off- and Off-Off Broadway theater, including its new date and time, will be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition to the usual celebration of the remarkable work that’s happened this season, this year’s Obie Awards will also shine a light on the loss of the productions that were in rehearsal and performance at the time the theaters closed.

Ms. Hitchens commented, “There has likely never been a more important time to celebrate the work of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway artists. While we won’t be able to hold the kind of ceremony we normally do, we knew we needed to find a way to preserve the Obie tradition and honor the work of this remarkable season. We will, as usual, provide the laughs and the awards, but this year the beer is strictly BYOB.”

The American Theatre Wing’s National COVID-19 Response Effort – Phase One:

The first phase of the American Theatre Wing’s National COVID-19 Response Effort encompasses three separate initiatives, the first offering relief to New York’s Off- and Off-Off-Broadway community of artists, the second providing immediate funds to regional theaters everywhere, and the third offering new educational resources that students can access remotely.

A) Theatre Artists Relief Fund
The shuttering of more than 90 Off- and Off-Off-Broadway productions has left an untenable number of theater workers suddenly without work. The Wing, with the council and guidance of the Obie Awards’ Judges Panel (co-chaired by Obie-winning scenic designer Rachel Hauck and choreographer Sam Pinkleton), has created a $250,000 Theatre Artists Relief Fund in order to get money directly into the hands of artists. This fund, which is generously supported by the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust and the theatrical production company No Guarantees, will grant each of these artists $500 to help sustain them during this period of mandatory shutdowns.

To aid in distributing these funds, the Wing has created an online resource database which is striving to assemble a comprehensive list of each theater, production, freelance artist, technician, and theater worker affected by the shutdown. Artists who were working on these productions may each receive $500 in aid by simply registering via a form on our website. While the Wing has worked to assemble the information for all productions Off- and Off-Off-Broadway that were affected by the shutdown, artists who have been unintentionally excluded are also encouraged to apply. There is a limited pool of funds, which will be paid by check, on a first come, first serve basis.

For a complete list of eligible theater artists from these productions, please visit To apply for a Theatre Artists Relief Fund grant, please visit

B) National Rapid Relief Fund
With regional theaters going dark in communities all across the nation, the Wing is committed to supporting as many of these institutions as possible during their time of need. Through the newly formed National Rapid Relief Fund, the Wing will be making immediate gifts, in the amount of $1,000, to each of the 82 prior recipients of the National Theatre Company Grants. These companies, large and small, play very important cultural and economic roles in their communities, and their survival is fundamental to the nation’s wider recovery effort.

For a complete list of eligible regional theaters, please visit

C) Virtual Master Classes
Educating and empowering the next generation of theater professionals has long been central to the Wing’s mission. As long as gathering in classroom settings remains impossible or inadvisable, the Wing will be offering a new series of live masterclasses via Zoom and Facebook Live that will feature an array of top tier theater talent.

Similarly, monthly meetings for the Wing’s The Network (formerly known as Theatre Intern Network – TIN), serving emerging leaders in the theatre, will move online. The digitization of these programs will instantly dissolve any geographic barriers, opening these resources to a national audience, while still providing developing industry professionals with advanced education, networking opportunities, and tools for career advancement within a supportive community.

More information about these online resources will be available shortly at

Further information from the American Theatre Wing:





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