Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Grants of $5,000 were distributed to 19 performance theaters in Council District 13 Nov. 17 to help theaters recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grants were funded by the Theater Emergency Response Program, a collaboration between Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Cultural Affairs.
O’Farrell and Felicia Filer, public art division director for the Department of Cultural Affairs, presented the grants at East Hollywood’s Fountain Theatre, one of the grant recipients.
“Arts and culture are what make a city more livable, and live theater means so much to the cultural and economic fabric of Los Angeles, especially here in Council District 13,” O’Farrell said. “COVID-19 has been devastating to our live theater community. This program is not only helping our theater artists do what they do best — create and perform — but it’s also helping them stay afloat through challenging economic times.”
O’Farrell noted the particularly devastating effect the pandemic has had on small theaters, saying when the pandemic hit, theaters “just shut down. All of their avenues for any sort of revenue stream just ended, came to a close.”
The grants can be used to cover operational costs, rent, salaries, artist fees, videography, marketing, website administration and other costs incurred since Jan. 1, 2021.
Raquel Lehrman, founder and managing director of Theatre Planners, one of the grant recipients, told City News Service she would use the money to pay her staff.
“I don’t want to lose them,” she said. “None of them are getting unemployment anymore and I need to pay them. It’s really just for my staff, so I can still have my cleaning crew come, I can have my technical director still fix things as people are starting to rent, to have maybe my venue manager continue to work part-time to check the bones and manage the space to make sure that when we can fully operate at 100%, we’re capable and able to do so.”
Along with Theatre Planners, grant recipients include: 2220 Arts Cooperative, Actors Co-Op, Art Time Presents, Bazalaam Beats Productions, Circle X Theatre, FilAm ARTS, Fountain Theatre, Gloria Gifford, Grok Acting Studio, Hudson Theatres, Independent Shakespeare Company, Jaxx Theatricals, Lizzy Ross, Skiptown Playhouse, The Blank Theatre Company, The Sacred Fools Theater The Open Fist Theatre Company and The Yard Theater.
The Blank Theatre’s producing director Bree Pavey and associate artistic director Christopher James Raymond said the $5,000 would go into their general operational fund to pay rent and utilities, but they may earmark some of the funding to begin using their theater’s space again for the first time since the pandemic.
The theater pivoted to streaming-only immediately when the pandemic hit, putting on their first virtual show in March 2020. The actors have performed from home, but Pavey and Raymond said they may upgrade the equipment in their theater space to accommodate streamed shows from the theater.
“We’re not quite ready to bring an audience in yet, but we’re at a point where we’re starting to talk about bringing the artists into the space,” Pavey said. “That would need a little bit of a gear upgrade for us … and we’d like to see streaming become part of our model moving forward so that we’re doing live performance, but we’re also making streamed performances available as well.”
The grants were awarded through a public submission process, and as a condition of receiving the grant, recipients must produce, present or provide in-kind production support for one virtual/online performance, workshop or theater arts event that is free and publicly accessible on both the organizations’ website and the Department of Cultural Affairs’ website.
The Theater Emergency Response Program was funded through $130,000 in arts development fees, a program in which the city requires each owner of a private development project valued at $500,000 or more to pay an arts fee or create a site-specific art project based on the square footage of the building or 1% of the project’s permit valuation.
“As the city grows, we must continue to invest in our collective arts and culture,” O’Farrell said. “The arts development fee represents an ongoing commitment to public art that is synonymous with our evolution as a city. I’m proud to do everything I can to ensure Los Angeles is a place where people can live, work and thrive — and public art is a prime example of how we thrive as individuals, as a community and as a world-class city.”
Giselle Tongi, executive director of grant recipient FilAm ARTS, said: “Live theater is especially essential as the arts has been the lifeline and lifeblood for so many in Los Angeles during this pandemic, and it provides a critical forum for storytelling and representation for all Angelenos.”