The Show Still Can't Go on for Theaters

Thousands of theater employees are still without work

NBC Universal, Inc.

“The entire motto of theater is that the show must go on.”

That’s easier said than done during a pandemic that prohibits audience members from packing a theater and actors from performing on stage.

However, that motto has been tested at the MOXIE Theatre in the San Diego community of Rolando. On Thursday, the stage was dominated by a lone ghost light; a single light bulb on top of a metal stand.

“When you enter a theater, it’s often dark and it’s just smart to have a way to find your way into that space,” explained Jennifer Eve Thorn, MOXIE’s Executive Artistic Director.

“We leave it on to think of the people that we’re losing around us,” she continued. “I think during this pandemic; a lot of theaters are leaving their ghost light on their stage on as we think about all of the lives that are being lost right now. We’re keeping our light on until people can sit in our seats again. It’ll be here. We’re making art. We’ll get it to you however we can. We just need you to meet us halfway.”

“Halfway” would be a blessing for live performance theaters all over San Diego County.

“We didn’t realize that we were at the absolute bottom of the list of businesses that would be given permission to reopen,” sighed Thorn.

She said the MOXIE Theatre was in the midst of preparing the final production of its 15th season when the pandemic shut everything down.

“To cancel it and to lose all the work that had gone into it was heartbreaking and it was frightening to know that we had no idea when we would be back,” she said. “It was heartbreaking for anybody who had to change such big plans at that time.”

Thorn said the MOXIE Theatre focuses on creating opportunities for women and people of color, especially writers. The public health rules governing the pandemic in California have hurt those opportunities.

“We know right now that women are leaving the workforce at four-times the rate that men are leaving the workforce,” explained Thorn. “And I think what is really heartbreaking is to think that when we get through all of this, many of those people won’t return.”

Thorn said they got creative and produced some live plays performed via Zoom that helped make ends meet, but she said their revenue has been slashed in half. She said they’re in the midst of their End-of-the-Year fundraiser to make $60,000 by the end of the year.

“And that’s not even considering how much longer our doors will be closed,” she worked a not-yet-defeated smile. “We believe we’re a priority. We haven’t been made a priority.”

Thursday, the US Labor Department said the number of unemployment applications in California dropped this week. That was good news overall but there are still thousands of people out of work. Thorn said there are thousands of people who regularly work at more than 50 live venues in San Diego County.

“The greatest number of those artists that won’t return will be women and will be people of color,” she said.

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