Press Release

Nonprofit Theaters Take Center Stage as Welch Discusses the ‘STAGE Act’ 

Apr 24, 2024

BURLINGTON, VT – U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) stressed the importance of the arts and his recently introduced bill, the Supporting Theater and the Arts to Galvanize the Economy Act (STAGE Act) of 2024 at an event held tonight at Burlington’s historic Flynn Performing Arts Center. 

Professional nonprofit theaters, which enrich communities and bolster local economies in every state, have experienced a lagging recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Theaters have been forced to reduce staff and productions, and many have closed permanently. The STAGE Act will establish a new grant program to support the industry. The bicameral bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and in the House by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01). 

Senator Welch was joined at the Flynn Center by local arts, community and economic leaders, including Vermont Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle, Jay Wahl of the Flynn Center, Carol Dunne of Northern Stage, and Susan Evans McClure of the Vermont Arts Council. 

“The arts and nonprofit theaters are vital, especially in rural states like Vermont. Our local nonprofit theaters give back in so many ways including creating and support jobs. The arts attract local audiences and tourists, who spend money at our local restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels. And of course, our theaters inspire a sense of community, and bring people together—they’re in the hearts of so many folks and deeply embedded in the soul of our country,” said Senator Welch. “But theaters are still recovering from the pandemic, and without a robust investment, more will close. We need the STAGE Act to ensure the show can go on for future generations of theatergoers and artists across Vermont and across America.” 

The STAGE Act is endorsed by over 170 theaters from across the United States, as well as national theaters, arts, and economic organizations, including: the Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition (PNTC); the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE); the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC); the Theatre Communications Group (TCG); the League of Resident Theaters (LORT); the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT); the Theatre for Young Audiences/USA; and the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA). 

In Vermont, the STAGE Act has been endorsed by the Paramount Theatre in Rutland; Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury; the Town of Brattleboro; City of Rutland Mayor Mike Doenges, Weston Theater Company in Weston; Vermont Arts Council; Town Hall Theater in Middlebury; Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce; Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and the New England Foundation for the Arts. 

The nonprofit arts sector generated $151.7 billion in direct spending by organizations and attendees in 2022, and $29.1 billion in tax revenue. The nonprofit arts sector also supported 2.6 million jobs and provided $101 billion in personal income to workers in communities across America. In Vermont, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $158.5 million in direct spending by organizations and arts audiences.  

Despite these economic contributions and the support of the public, the nonprofit arts—especially nonprofit theaters—are struggling to stay open after the pandemic. Audiences are down 20-50% from pre-2020 levels. Inflation and higher-than-average operating costs are hurting the bottom-line. Some theaters have mounted productions with limited runs or scaled-back seasons, and many throughout the country have closed.  

Learn more about the STAGE Act