COVID-19 and the Ban on Mass Gatherings
We have all suffered hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Cleveland Play House is no exception. Approximately $2 million in revenue projected for this year has either been lost completely or deferred to some unknown future date. In addition, significant expenses for canceled productions had already been incurred. The effects of this crisis on Cleveland Play House have been exponentially larger than previous economic downturns, due primarily to the inability to gather. We acknowledge that this was in the best interest of public safety, but the March 12th ban on gatherings of more than 100 people made it effectively impossible for us to continue with our season as planned.
Shortly after that ban went into effect, we made the difficult decisions to cancel the CPH productions of Middletown, Antigone, and A Doll’s House Part 2, and postpone to an as yet unknown date New Ground Theatre Festival and the annual benefit. The three canceled productions were projected to earn $180,000 in single ticket sales. There is no way to recoup this revenue. About 80% of subscribers are very generously donating the value of their tickets to CPH, but we will have to issue about $64,000 in refunds. Approximately $500,000 had already been spent on these canceled productions. The annual benefit traditionally nets $500,000, and at this time it is unknown when we will be able to reschedule the event.
CPH has taken decisive, aggressive action in response to the crisis. Over the past few weeks, we have canceled the season, an action in which 66 artists lost work, including actors, directors, and designers. 25 seasonal production staff were laid off prematurely and 10 year-round employees were laid off. Executive Leaders have taken 50% pay reductions. We have contacted all ticket-holders for the canceled productions and asked them to consider donating the value of their tickets or transferring them to a future production. About 80% have agreed to do this. We were fortunate to receive a loan from the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program and are in the process of applying for relief funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, but this does not make up the difference for what we have lost.
Although we are not able to hold performances in our theatres, CPH continues to offer artistic and education content virtually. Our CARE (Compassionate Arts Remaking Education) classes and afterschool programs are now being conducted over Zoom. Our education programs were featured on Cleveland.com: https://www.cleveland.com/education/2020/03/cleveland-students-dealing-with-trauma-find-comfort-with-play-houses-care-class-adapted-to-online-lessons.html
We have also shared artistic content via social media videos as well as hosting a live webinar panel discussion with some of the artists involved in our canceled production of Antigone. We look forward to finding more ways to serve our community with artistic content until we are able to gather in our theatres once again.
Cleveland Play House has served our community with theatre and theatre education programs for 105 years, and we look forward to continuing that service through this crisis and beyond it.