We all know it's a deeply troubling time for the theatre industry, with no date in sight for when they can open their doors. For the countless fans of the West end and Broadway, it's easy to feel deflated and helpless, but there are lots of things we can all do to play our part and ensure our beloved theatres continue to entertain the masses for generations to come.
This post isn't here to guilt trip anyone into donating anything beyond their means. The pandemic has been tough for a lot of us and we're in for a rough ride still to come.. Like a famous supermarket says, every little helps, but not all these methods involve money.
So here are 5 ways to help out:
1. PAY FOR ONLINE STREAMS ,CONCERTS AND CAMEOS
Over the last three months we have been inundated with a wealth of titles from the world of theatre, be it recordings of past plays and musicals, concerts being live streamed and even full blown shows being streamed. A lot of these are done free of charge, such as the incredibly popular weekly series of both 'The Shows Must Go On' and 'National Theatre At Home'. These do come with an option to make a donation, but unfortunately there are far more people watching without donating.
While there is no judgement, this needs to be the time we step up to ensure the long term survival of theatre. Streaming everything for free has been a great way to stay connected with fans struggling without their regular fix, but it is not sustainable in the long term. As it becomes apparent, theatres won't be opening their doors again for a little while, more shows are moving away from free streams and moving into a paid programme. The biggest title so far is the forthcoming Old Vic production of Lungs starring Matt Smith and Claire Foy, which sold the majority of its 1000 tickets per performance at prices from £10 to £65. More are following suit with forthcoming virtual productions of The Last Five Years and Birdsong among those recently announced. It is also looking likely that future 'National Theatre At Home' titles after this series ends next month will be paid, rather than free.
This proves there is an appetite for paid productions, and while it may feel weird watching at home, I think we need to get into the mindset of "I would have paid this much or more to sit in the theatre so I'm not losing out" - at least this way you don't have to deal with bad theatre etiquette fro,m annoying people. And who doesn't love watching a musical in their pyjamas? If you watch one with me at my house though, I will still shoot you a death stare if you rustle your sweets during the show.
You can also support the actors themselves with the amazing Cameo website. Check out cameo.com to get personalises messages from more stars of West end and Broadway shows than it is possible to mention, though it includes Marisha Wallace, David Hunter, Jordan Luke Gage, Cassidy Janson, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Layton Williams to name but a few. It's important to remember theatre stars aren't on Lady Gaga's salary and need to pay their bills too. This is a brilliant way to support them and get something unique and special back.
2. DON'T REFUND YOUR TICKETS (IF POSSIBLE)
I'm sure we're all faced with a tonne of emails about cancelled or postponed bookings . You are, of course, legally entitled to a refund if your booking is not going ahead. Several companies actively avoid offering you a refund at first and make it hard for you to get your money back - ATG have been the most talked about culprit of this. This isn't just them being difficult - the fact is with no shows going ahead and all of these cancellations, theatres and booking agents are losing money hand over fist. If you are in a position where, rather than get a refund, you can exchange the tickets for a different date or a credit voucher for a future purpose, I would encourage you to do that. While I understand it is annoying to have money tied up with nothing to show for it and nothing to spend it on, it will pay off in the long run. We need to look at it as short term pain for long term gain.
Some companies aren't giving the option to exchange and are issuing a refund without contacting customers - if that happens, there's nothing you can do. But nothing is stopping you reinvesting that money in another ticket. At the end of the day, you won't lose that money. If that gets postponed or cancelled, you will get your money back. We just need to make sure there is still money floating around the industry or it won't be sustainable at all.
ATGTickets offer a credit voucher, TodayTix offer you a voucher of 110% of what you paid for cancelled shows, some shows are offering subscriptions, memberships and free upgrades if you choose not to get a refund outright. So it is worth it in the end.
3. BUY MEMBERSHIPS AND SUBSCRIPTIONS
Another way to support theatres is by signing up to their annual membership schemes. The two biggest ones are ATG and DMT who offer discounted tickets, free programmes, free drinks and priority booking for new shows for a minimal cost each year.
Standalone theatres also have their own schemes which go directly towards the theatre itself. Some of these include Southwark Playhouse whose Pay As You Go service allows you to get 5 seriously reduced tickets for a one off payment upfront, while the Menier Chocolate Factory and Old Vic also offer membership schemes at various prices.
If you have a local theatre you love going to, support it by looking into any schemes or incentives they are offering. Think of it as Pay now, go later. If they have nothing advertised on their website, try sending an email asking if they offer anything or if you're able to put something aside under your name for a future booking. They will appreciate the support and you can sleep well knowing your local theatre will (hopefully) still be there when all this is over.
4. MAKE A DONATION
I've talked about things you can pay for upfront and get something back in return. But sometimes it's just about charity. Practically all independent venues have an option on their website where you can donate money to ensure the survival of each theatre. If you are in a position where you can spare a few quid, please consider it. No amount is too small and it will all go a long way to help.
National Theatre, The Old Vic, Menier Chocolate Factory and Shakespeares Globe are just some of the theatres who have donation schemes set up on their website. Non London ones are perhaps in an even more vulnerable position, so again, please consider giving to your local theatre.
It's not just the theatres themselves you can donate to. There are several charities where all proceeds go to supporting the industry.:
Theatre Support Fund (https://theatresupportfund.co.uk/) released their amazing range of The Show Must Go On! merchandise, including the incredible t-shirt every self respecting theatre fan needs to own. They have already raised a lot for Acting For Others, the Fleabag Support Fund and NHS Covid-19 and Urgent Appeal. If you haven't bought something from them yet, I'd recommend it. The t-shirt is even more gorgeous in the flesh and ridiculously comfortable too.
5. BE VOCAL
I said that not everything involved money, so here is the option that costs you nothing but a few seconds of your time:
Be vocal. Make your voice heard.
Talk about what is going on in the theatre industry,.
Voice your concern, be angry about it.
Tweet MPs including Oliver Dowden who is the Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport to tell him to pull his finger out and help support the industry.
While he said yesterday he was looking into it, you have to wonder what has taken so long? We can't allow it to be forgotten about. Theatre fans are the most passionate in the world. We have put up with a lot, including last years Cats movie and survived it, so we don't give up easily.
The most dangerous thing right now would be to remain silent..
Never underestimate the power of social media. Think of it like when you get poor service from someone - they are more likely to respond if you drag them on social media, so the more attention we can give this, the better.
Other industries have received the life support they desperately need, so why has the theatre industry been left out? It's not ok and we need to speak out about it.
A petition to offer more support to the arts is gathering huge momentum, and is on over 63,000 signatures at the time of writing. Add your support by signing too:
So there you have it. 5 ways we can all support the theatre. I'm not saying everyone needs to do every single thing on there or bankrupt themselves, but someone needs to do something (If you heard that in Elphaba's voice, we are very alike). If everyone does just one thing from this post, it will go a long way.
If there are any other ways to support that I haven't mentioned here, please let me know in the comments or at twitter.com/ATDazzles, and please share this post if you can.