Press Release

What They’re Saying: Over 170 Theaters and Arts Organizations from Across America Support the STAGE Act

Apr 9, 2024

Welch, Fetterman, Reed, and Bonamici legislation will revive and support the economic success of nonprofit theaters

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 9, 2024)  Earlier today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.) Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01) introduced the Supporting Theater and the Arts to Galvanize the Economy (STAGE) Act of 2024

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, administered by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, that would provide $1 billion annually to support the industry. The grants would be used to pay rent and payroll, employ artists and support professional personnel, attract new audiences, invest in industry workforce development, study how to best sustain the long-term success of this industry, and–most importantly–ensure the show can go on.  

Read more about the bill here

The New York Times was the first to report about the introduction of the STAGE Act. Read more here.

The Supporting Theater and the Arts to Galvanize the Economy (STAGE) Act of 2024 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), the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, Vermont, Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the City of Rutland, Weston Theater Company in Weston Vermont; Vermont Arts Council; Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, Vermont; the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Here’s what industry, labor, and theater professionals are saying about the STAGE Act

“The STAGE Act provides critical funding to non-profit theaters and shines a spotlight on the vital roles our organizations play in our communities. Non-profit theaters are not only cultural beacons but also employers, educators, and workforce development centers. Unfortunately, our field is still endangered by the impact of the pandemic and economic headwinds, with dozens of theaters having closed and many more struggling to stay afloat. This bill provides much needed support for the work that we do and acknowledges the significant impact we have in the communities in which we operate. We applaud Senators Peter Welch, John Fetterman, Jack Reed, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici for their leadership and support for our industry,” said Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Public Theater, Founding Member of the Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition.

“Union creative professionals know firsthand the economic and cultural power of the nonprofit performing arts and the critical importance of federal arts funding. Unfortunately, right now, the reality is that much of the nonprofit arts sector faces financial headwinds that have resulted in less work and fewer job opportunities for members of DPE’s affiliate unions. The STAGE Act will help ensure continued employment in family-supporting jobs for union creative professionals and all performing arts workers, while also supporting needed efforts to ensure a sustainable future for this important sector of our economy. I applaud Senator Welch, Senator Fetterman, Senator Reed, and Representative Bonamici for ensuring that creative professionals were not left behind in this bill,” said Jennifer Dorning, President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE). 

“As the only Actors Equity theatre in the country devoted to developing and producing new works by Native American, Alaska Native, First Nations, and Native Hawaiian playwrights, Native Voices strongly endorses the STAGE Act,” said DeLanna Studi, Artistic Director, Native Voices.

“The Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) is proud to endorse The STAGE Act. The LTC relies greatly on continued partnerships with theatres around the country to pursue its mission to amplify the visibility of Latinx performance making. For over a decade we have partnered with theatres, organizations, individual artists, and theatremakers, experiencing firsthand the vital role they play in their local and regional economies. We believe this 5-year funding by the Economic Development Administration of the non-profit theater sector is critical to sustain the recovery of many organizations and programs that are critical to the American Theater and the thousands of communities it serves,” said Jacqueline Flores, Producer, Latinx Theater Commons.

“Like many non-profit theaters, Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, Vermont only brings in about one-third of its annual operating budget through earned revenue from sources like ticket sales and rentals. The STAGE Act will go a long way toward helping professional non-profit theaters find more sustainable footing to ensure they continue to enrich our communities and their local economies for some time to come. THT is incredibly grateful to Senator Welch for investing in the long-term sustainability of our nation’s non-profit theater’s so that we can continue to contribute cultural and economic gains to our regions,” said Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director, Town Hall Theater, Middlebury, VT.

“Vermont’s nonprofit theaters are a cornerstone of our local communities and economies, but more than that, theater profoundly connects us to our shared humanity. This bill provides much-needed support to sustain this vital industry and art form,” said Susan Evans McClure, Executive Director, Vermont Arts Council.

“The STAGE Act provides urgently needed funds for the continued vitality of professional non-profit theaters across the country. Theaters serve their communities as a public good, expand the collective imagination about what’s possible for our society, and act as central economic engines in our regions. In a time of rebuilding, as theaters face serious revenue loss and steeply rising expenses in our field, the STAGE Act ensures the survival of these essential cultural hubs. We are deeply grateful for the visionary leadership of Senators Welch, Fetterman, Reed, and Representative Bonamici, for their significant, long-term support of theater and the arts. Together, we can continue to create transformational theater that creates belonging for all people, for generations to come,” said Marissa Wolf, Artistic Director, Portland Center Stage in Portland, OR (Member, Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition).

“We thank Senators Welch, Fetterman, Reed, and Representative Bonamici for recognizing that the arts and arts workers are essential, and for understanding that federal funding to the sector is critical. The STAGE Act will provide consequential support to nonprofit performing arts organizations which will in turn secure thousands of union jobs in communities across the country.  We are especially grateful that the legislation includes provisions for a long-term study as we support economic recovery for our industry,” said Laura Penn, Executive Director, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).

“The STAGE Act is domestic policy at its finest. Theatres anchor dynamic and robust local economies while also providing critical social infrastructure for Americans to be in community with each other. At a time of elevated political division, the theatre creates a unique space where all Americans can come together and experience productions that provide wonder, joy, meaning, and affirmations of our shared humanity. The STAGE Act will give much-needed relief and stability to theatres still recovering from the devastating impact of COVID-19 and establish an economic foundation of stability for theatres so that they can not just survive, but thrive in the communities that benefit from them,” said Carson Elrod, Executive Director Arts Workers United.

“Theatres have shown incredible resiliency in navigating the aftereffects of a pandemic that, at its worst, wiped out an average 88% of their total ticket income in a single year,” said LaTeshia Ellerson, interim chief growth officer, TCG.  

“That resiliency is testament to how deeply rooted these theatres are in the communities they serve all across this country. Yet, with the compounding crises of inflationary pressures, hollowed-out downtowns, and shuttered performances from the climate crisis and still all-too-present pandemic, our theatres need sustained support. In addition, we estimate that in 2022, 2,006 U.S. non-profit professional theatres engaged with over 10 million audiences and added over 2.3 billion to the U.S. economy through direct payments for goods and services. With greater investment in this industry by our federal government, we know an increased economic impact on local communities will be a result. The STAGE Act is an important part of the comprehensive arts legislation we need to pass so that theatres and theatre workers can thrive, including support for the NEA, equitable access to arts education, improved tax incentives for charitable giving, and gig worker protections. We’re pleased to endorse the STAGE Act as part of that holistic approach, and to continue to work with PNTC and our other advocacy partners to build our theatre field’s collective power,” said Theatre Communications Group. 

“The extraordinary support the federal government showed to the non-profit theater industry during the pandemic now has a chance to continue under the STAGE Act. During this time, we saw the true funding need for non-profit theaters, which we were able to utilize for our creative and community work that revitalizes local economies, offers robust education programming, creates jobs, and makes cities and towns great places to live and work. Our artistry does not exist in a vacuum – in fact we reflect the world and times in which we live to uplift, entertain, and educate. Our essential work deserves support in line with other industries of our size and impact, and I thank Senator Welch, Senator Fetterman, Senator Reed, and Representative Bonamici for their leadership and vision,” said Leigh Goldberg, Managing Director, The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, PA.

“The STAGE Act will provide critical support to Catamount Arts as we work to rebuild our rural performing arts audience base in the wake of the pandemic,” said Jody Fried, Executive Director, Catamount Arts, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

*Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition members and supporters of the STAGE Act include, by state:

Alaska: Perseverance Theatre; Alabama: Alabama Shakespeare Festival; Arkansas: TheatreSquared; California: American Conservatory Theater; Artists at Play; Boston Court Pasadena; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Cal Shakes; Center Theatre Group; City Lights Theater Company of San Jose; Crowded Fire Theater; East West Players; Fountain Theatre; Laguna Playhouse; Latino Theater; Native Voices; New Village Arts; North Coast Repertory Theatre; Ophelia’s Jump Productions; Pasadena Playhouse; San Francisco Shakespeare Festival; Studio Luna; The Old Globe; Colorado: Denver Center for the Performing Arts; Theatre SilCo; Connecticut: Hartford Stage; Long Wharf Theater; Yale Repertory Theatre; Washington, D.C.: Arena Stage; Ford’s Theatre; Theater J; The Shakespeare Theatre; Studio Theatre; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; Delaware: Delaware Theatre Company; Florida: Florida Studio Theatre; Georgia: Alliance Theatre;  Aurora Theatre; Georgia Ensemble Theatre; Synchronicity Theatre; True Colors Theatre Company; Hawaii: Honolulu Theatre For Youth; Iowa: Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center; Revival Theatre Company; Idaho: Boise Contemporary Theater; Illinois: Chicago Latino Theater Alliance; Goodman Theatre; Lookingglass Theatre Company; Raven Theatre; Steep Theatre; Steppenwolf; TimeLine Theatre Company; UrbanTheater Company; Writers Theatre; Indiana: Indiana Repertory Theatre; Kansas: Music Theatre Wichita; Kentucky: Actors Theatre of Louisville; The Lexington Theatre Company; Louisiana: Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré; Massachusetts:Central Square Theater; Company One; Huntington Theatre; Merrimack Repertory Theatre; WAM Theatre; Maryland: Baltimore Center Stage; Everyman Theatre; Imagination Stage; Olney Theatre Center for the Arts; Round House Theatre; Maine: Portland Stage; Michigan: Detroit Public Theatre; Theatre NOVA; Minnesota: Children’s Theatre Company; History Theatre; The Guthrie; Theatre Mu; Missouri: Kansas City Repertory Theatre; The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; Mississippi: New Stage Theatre; Montana: Montana Repertory Theatre; Warren Miller Performing Arts Center; North Dakota: Empire Arts Center; Nebraska: BLUEBARN Theatre; The Union for Contemporary Art-Performing Arts Collective; New Hampshire: Weathervane Theatre; New Jersey: McCarter Theatre Center; Paper Mill Playhouse; Two River Theater; New Mexico: Fusion Theatre Company; The New Mexico Actors Lab; Nevada: The Lab LV; Reno Little Theater; New York: Classic Stage Company; Geva Theatre; New York Theatre Workshop; Pendragon Theatre; Road Less Traveled Productions; Syracuse Stage; TheaterWorksUSA; The Public Theater; The REV Theatre Company; Vital Theatre Company, Inc; Primary Stages; Ohio: Cleveland Playhouse; Great Lakes Theater Festival; Karamu House; Oklahoma: Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre; Oregon: Artists Repertory Theatre; Bag&Baggage Productions; Portland Center Stage; Pennsylvania: Bristol Riverside Theatre; City Theatre Company; Inis Nua Theatre Company; Fulton Theatre; Lantern Theater Company; Philadelphia Theatre Company; Pittsburgh Public Theater; Upper Darby Summer Stage; Walnut Street Theatre; Wilma Theater; Rhode Island: The Gamm Theatre; Trinity Repertory Company; South Carolina: Warehouse Theatre; South Dakota: Monstrous Little Theatre; The Premiere Playhouse; Tennessee: Hattiloo Theatre; Nashville Children’s Theatre; Playhouse on the Square (Circuit Playhouse, Inc.); Texas: Stages; Alley Theatre; Arga Nova Dance; Bishop Arts Theatre Center; Dallas Theatre Center; Ground Floor Theatre; Kitchen Dog Theater; ZACH Theatre; Utah: Plan-B Theatre; Virginia: The Hamner Theater; Live Arts; Virginia Stage Company; American Shakespeare Center; Vermont: Dorset Theatre Festival; JAG Productions; Northern Stage; Vermont Public Theater; Weston Theater Company; Washington: 5th Avenue Theatre; ACT Contemporary Theatre; Seattle Rep; Spokane Ensemble Theatre; Wisconsin: American Players Theatre; Milwaukee Repertory Theater; Renaissance Theaterworks; Forward Theater Company; West Virginia: Contemporary American Theater Festival; Greenbrier Valley Theatre; Wyoming: Off Square Theatre Company; Relative Theatrics.