Monday 2 October 2023

'Hamilton' creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wants $2.5 billion taxpayer-funded bailout for failing theater companies

 Lin-Manuel Miranda – the creator and lead actor of "Hamilton" – called on Congress to provide failing theater companies with a massive taxpayer-funded bailout.

Miranda and "The Cosby Show" star Phylicia Rashad pleaded with lawmakers to furnish the theater industry with $500 million in annual federal funding for the next five years – a total of $2.5 billion in taxpayer funds. 

"The person who [will have written] your favorite musical is working on it right now in a small theater somewhere in this country," Miranda said during a Senate briefing on Thursday at the Russell Senate Office Building. "And those small theaters are closing, and those small theaters are in crisis."

Rashad told lawmakers that theater is principally "communication from the heart."

"When we communicate from the heart, other hearts are touched," Rashad asserted. "This is why theater creates community."

The briefing was hosted by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a way to introduce the Supporting Theater and Generating Economic Activity Act. The STAGE Act is a "federal funding initiative that has the potential to stimulate the theater industry as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges." The legislation was unveiled by the Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition, an organization representing 140 theaters from across the country. 

Oskar Eustis, artistic director of New York’s Public Theater, told the Los Angeles Times, "To the federal government, it’s a pretty small amount of money, but it would make an unbelievable difference to theaters across the country. Every theater would survive, and could serve our communities in ways that, right now, we’re struggling to do."

Theater attendance has dropped by as much as 30% since the pandemic shutdowns of March 2020, according to the Washington Post. There are reportedly two to three theater companies shuttering each month.

Many theaters have already received funding from the federal government from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program in 2020 – which supplied $15 billion for "ailing entertainment spaces and promoters in the largest public rescue of the arts in U.S. history."

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