Live theaters, even large ones, often operate on a shoestring budget. And the actors, technicians, sales clerks, and maintenance staff rely on money from tickets to pay their monthly bills. The closure of theaters as part of the measures to stop the coronavirus has hit the arts community particularly hard.
Locally, there is a movement not to ask for refunds for tickets you have already bought, and Prague Shakespeare Company has been raising funds for not only its own actors and staff, but any freelancers based in Prague who work in the creative areas.
The movement for people not to ask for refunds will help theaters survive to the next season. Currently, it is not known when theaters will reopen. Even if the general quarantine is lifted, the ban on gatherings of over 30 people could stay in place longer.
The i-divadlo.cz portal focuses on Czech theater has asked people to keep their tickets. “If you have purchased theater, concert, exhibition, etc. tickets, please keep your ticket and do not claim a refund (unless replacement dates could be announced) to help theaters, associations and organizations survive. If you feel similar, join this challenge and let us know about it,” the front page of their website states.
The Czech National Theatre reports it is facing significant losses on tickets. The National Theater hosts plays, ballet, and opera at four venues: the Historical Building and New Stage of the National Theatre, the State Opera, and the Estates Theatre.
“For canceled performances of all our ensembles in all our theater buildings, we will return more than 20 million CZK in tickets by the end of March,” theater spokesman Tomáš Staněk said, according to news server iDnes. Theater closures seem likely to extend even longer, so the losses will be even higher.
They point out that tickets bought online are automatically refunded, and have instructions on their website on how to donate the money back, using a bank transfer and variable symbol. “In gratitude for your support, in the 2020/21 season we will reward you by granting you the benefits of the Benefactors’ Club members,” the National Theatre states.
Locally, the Prague Shakespeare Company has launched the PSC Artist Relief Fund. The fund now covers any artist who has ever worked with PSC as well as other affected freelancers in the Prague arts scene. Over 560,000 CZK has been raised in a week. Information on how to donate can be found here.
“For many in the arts the life of a freelancing artist is one of living paycheck to paycheck and cobbling together an existence from theater, film, TV, voiceovers, teaching and other odd jobs. Many of your favorite artists have no savings, no retirement and nothing to fall back on. Even if they are physically healthy now they are at great risk because they have chosen to pursue art over security,” PSC artistic director Guy Roberts said.
“The current COVID-19 situation will likely hit some of our favorite artists hardest, and because all of them are valued members of the rich cultural life of the Czech Republic, we have created the PSC Artistic Relief Fund to ensure their continued well-being,” he added.
“These are unprecedented times and we want to do even more to help the many people who contribute not just on and off the stage to PSC, but also all the artists and behind-the-scenes talents who enrich the City of Prague, nourishing all of our spirits with their endeavors in the creative arts,” Roberts said.
From March 24 onward, 25% of all funds raised will go to any freelancer who works in the creative and cultural fields and is based in Prague. This includes actors; directors; designers; writers; filmmakers; stunt people; costume; prop; weapons; scenery craftsmen; technicians and behind-the-camera/scene workers for film, TV, and theater; dancers; choreographers; photographers; visual artists; poets; musicians; composers; sculptors; and more.
The remaining 75% will continue to go toward PSC artists in need. This includes anyone who has worked with PSC either on or off the stage in any capacity during its 12 year history, regardless of where they currently live. Overall, this includes more than 200 people.
All funds donated to the PSC Artist Relief Fund through Prague Shakespeare Company and Prague Shakespeare Company America (the affiliated US non-profit) go directly into artists hands, without any going into administrative fees.