The cast of School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play at Round House Theatre. Credit: C. Stanley Photography.

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This open letter is sponsored content written by Amy Austin, Publisher Emeritus of Washington City Paper and President of theatreWashington

Dear Washington-Area Friends and Theater Lovers,

As all of us face this unprecedented time, we as a theater industry are reeling from the cancellation and postponement of productions, classes, and events. We’re devastated for the loss of art that may simply go unseen.

Theater brings people together. As theatergoers, you know that gathering in a room together to bear witness is essential to our communities, and you know that we’ve had to make the decision to put that vital activity on hold during the current crisis. We can also tell you that the toll of this decision–on our institutions and the people who work for them–is overwhelming. At the same time, we’re inspired by the value of art and artists during this time: reading, writing, singing, dancing, and creating are some of the most valuable ways that people are spending their time and nourishing themselves. 

Some theaters have already begun special campaigns to help their organizations weather the storm. Federal, state, and local governments have stepped in to help those who have lost their jobs and the institutions that have lost revenue. But we all need your support now, more than ever, to ensure the DMV’s cultural life returns with gusto in the months ahead. Here are some ways you can help us:

Make a tax-deductible donation to the theaters you love.We recognize that the uncertainty of this moment weighs heavily on all of us, but for those of you who can, a tax-deductible donation in any amount to a theater you regularly attend would go a long way towards helping keep our organizations afloat and ready to reopen when the crisis has passed. If you have purchased tickets for a performance that is canceled, please consider donating that amount back to the theatre, rather than requesting a refund. The CARES Act includes a tax incentive for individuals who typically do not itemize. You can deduct up to $300–or $600 for joint filers–for donations made to 501(c)(3)s in addition to the standard deduction on your 2020 taxes. 

The cast of A Chorus Line at Signature Theatre

Buy a gift certificate or future season subscription. Theaters will be thrilled to welcome you back into their spaces when it is safe, and we know you’ll continue to be the best audiences in the nation. The purchase of gift certificates or a season subscription to use for future productions is a very real way that you can help now and demonstrate your faith that Washington theater will make a triumphant return.

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Your contribution is appreciated.

Support freelance theater-makers through the Taking Care fund.Many of the area’s professional theater-makers—actors, designers, directors, stage managers, box-office staff, choreographers, administrators, technicians, and others—are freelance, part-time, and/or contracted short-term employees. These individuals now face unforeseen financial hardship, like many of our region’s workers. theatreWashington has established a fund for theater professionals who are losing income due to performance cancellations. Please consider making a donation to help the people you see onstage and those who work behind the scenes. More information at theatrewashington.org.

Bring Washington theater into your home. Many theaters are moving their work online, offering streamed performances, classes, workshops, readings, conversations, podcasts, and more. We want to bring theater to you, even if we can’t be physically together. There’s programming to keep children, teens, and adults engaged and entertained. Find a listing of virtual offerings at: theatrewashington.org/athome.

Tell your local, state, and federal legislators that arts organizations need support like any small- or medium-sized business. Let your legislators and local officials know that not-for-profit arts organizations need extraordinary help in these extraordinary times to keep our communities as healthy and dynamic as they were before this crisis. The federal support programs, such as the Payroll Protection Plan, need to be supplemented at the local level with additional grant programs to those already announced (and much appreciated) if performances continue to be cancelled.

Blood at the Root at Theater Alliance: Deimoni Brewington, Stephanie Wilson, Billie Krishawn (ctr), Alex Turner, Charles Franklin IV

We will make it through this crisis together, and with your support, we’ll emerge stronger: more nimble, more creative, and more responsive to the needs of our communities. To that end, we’re all working on new stories to share once our world returns to its new normal. We can’t wait to see you at our theaters when they reopen.

And until then stay safe, stay healthy, and keep sharing your stories!

With gratitude,

Amy Austin, President & CEO, and all of the staff at theatreWashington

theatreWashington is a nonprofit organization serving the professional theater industry of the Washington region, including these partner institutions:

1st Stage

4615 Theatre Company

The Actors’ Center

Adventure Theatre MTC

Alliance for New Music-Theatre

Ally Theatre Company

Anacostia Playhouse

Angel Rose Artist Collective

Annapolis Shakespeare Company

Arcturus Theater Company

Arena Stage

Arts on the Horizon

Atlas Performing Arts Center

Avant Bard Theatre

Best Medicine Rep

Brave Spirits Theatre

Capital Fringe

Compass Rose Theater

Constellation Theatre Company

Convergence Theatre

Creative Cauldron

Discovery Theater

The Edge of the Universe Players 2 

The Essential Theatre 

ETC Educational Theatre Company

ExPats Theatre 

Faction of Fools Theatre Company

Factory 449

First Draft at The Rose Theatre Co. 

Flying V

Folger Theatre

Ford’s Theatre

GALA Hispanic Theatre

Guillotine Theatre

Happenstance Theater 

The Hub Theatre

Imagination Stage

The IN Series

Infinity Theatre Company

InterAct Story Theatre 

The Keegan Theatre

The Kennedy Center

The Klunch 

The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics

Landless Theatre Company 

Live Garra Theatre

Longacre Lea

MetroStage 

Monumental Theatre Company

Mosaic Theater Company of DC

National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts

National Theatre

NextStop Theatre Company

Nu Sass Productions

Olney Theatre Center

Open Circle Theatre

Perisphere Theatre 

Peter’s Alley Theatre Productions

Pinky Swear Productions

Pointless Theatre

Prologue Theatre

the Puppet Co.

Quotidian Theatre Company

Rainbow Theatre Project

Rep Stage

Restoration Stage

Rorschach Theatre

Round House Theatre

SCENA Theatre

Shakespeare Theatre Company

Signature Theatre

Sitar Arts Center

Solas Nua

Spooky Action Theater

Studio Acting Conservatory

Studio Theatre

Synetic Theater

Taffety Punk Theatre Company

Teatro de la Luna 

Theater Alliance

Theater J

The Theatre Lab

Theatre Prometheus

Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Traveling Players Ensemble 

Unexpected Stage Company

Venus Theatre 

Washington Improv Theater

Washington Stage Guild

We Happy Few Productions

The Welders

Wolf Pack Theatre Company 

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Workhouse Theatre 

Young Playwrights’ Theater