theatreWashington, which produces the Helen Hayes Awards and helps to promote theatre throughout the Washington area, today announced that it will make available $115,000 in assistance to theatre artists in the Washington Metro Area during the period in which theatre is shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
theatreWashington will fund the program, which it calls “Taking Care-COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund,” by reallocating $100,000 from its “Taking Care of Our Own Fund,” which assists area theatre professionals in unforeseen financial emergencies, and adding a $10,000 pledge from The Revada Foundation, and a $5,000 gift from area theatre artists Rachel Grossman and Colin K. Bills.
The assistance, in the form of $500 grants, will offer relief to at least 230 theatre artists.
To make more grants available, theatreWashington is asking the public’s help to raise an additional $115,000. Every dollar raised will be allocated to direct relief for theater professionals in need at this time.
Why two artists decided the time was right to give back.
We asked donors Rachel Grossman and Colin K. Bills about the genesis of the significant gift they gave the fund. Grossman, an actor and director and longtime mainstay of dog & pony dc, wrote that “posts about freelancers and artists losing work began popping up in my social media feeds as early as March 4. By the following week–I’m not unique in this–there were a few days during which it seemed every post was someone reporting canceled shows and concerts, lost workshops and residencies…The need was evident immediately (and growing rapidly).”
“I realized for many people this is going to be a sudden and swift lack of freelance work,” said Bills, a noted lighting designer. “In November 2019, I was surprised to learn I received the Anderson-Hopkins Award. The spirit of that award was to recognize achievement in the DC theatre community. I was reminded of that award and it’s spirit (“enriching Washington audiences in years to come”), and was compelled to pay-it-forward in all ways.
“Larger budget theatres who issue union contracts to artists are generally ‘doing right’ by those artists. I was paid a portion of my fee from my union contract for Becoming Dr. Ruth already, but that show won’t get hung and there won’t be a focus call. That’s a week’s worth of work for three electricians. One very small example of the bigger picture.”
After watching the HowlRound livestream “Artists in a time of Global Pandemic” the couple decided to make their move. “Both of us are privileged in society and have been honored to build careers in the local and national theatre communities.” They decided to give back. They were particularly motivated by the impact of the theatre shutdown on minority artists. “We recognize not only the magnitude for which freelance artists will be affected by the closing of theatres and arts and culture organizations, but we particularly recognize the significantly greater impact on artists from marginalized communities,” they told DCTS, referring more specifically to this report from the Brookings Institution.
How to donate
Donations to the Taking Care-COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund are now being accepted.
How to apply for assistance
Any theater professional currently residing in and who has actively worked in the Washington metropolitan area within the past two years is eligible to apply. Applications for relief funding are available now.
theatreWashington intends to review grant requests in two stages — the first, on April 1, for all applications received by March 31, and the second, on April 15, for all applications received by April 14.
“If anyone wants to talk about creating networks of support for one another” Grossman said, “or begin imagining how to center equity, inclusion, and community as and when we start to reopen—Colin and I would love to be in conversation with you.” Contact them through email: Rachel Grossman and Colin K Bills.