How to help local theatre companies bracing for potentially 'catastrophic' impacts from COVID-19

SEATTLE - Co-Executive Director of Nordo, Erin Brindley, loves to find ways to breathe life into the performances on stage. But now she is trying to breathe life into her theatre company in Pioneer Square as COVID-19 threatens to shut down the arts industry.

“It could be a blip and we can all recover, no problem, or it could be absolutely catastrophic,” Brindley said.

“We are on the knife-edge of that catastrophe,” Annie Lareau, Artistic Director of Seattle Public Theatre, said.

Lareau says they are going day by day, hour by hour in order to keep their staff and community members safe.

As of Tuesday, Seattle Public Theatre in Green Lake says ticket sales have virtually stopped.

“It’s heart-wrenching honestly, our artist right now working on Pipeline has put their heart and soul in this piece,” Lareau said.

For now, their show Pipeline is set to debut March 20.

Lareau says actors can't work from home because their very livelihood depends on getting crowds to gather.

Many working for small and mid-size theatres also work other jobs to make ends meet.

So now the leaders in the art industry have a favor to ask of the public.

“Buying gift cards to future shows is a great idea,” Brindley said.

“That you consider making a ticket, a donation, and not asking for a refund or even an exchange,” Lareau said.

You can also just make a donation, that way you are still helping even if you can’t make it to a show.

If you do feel comfortable going to a theatre show, Seattle Public Theater says they are considering buffer seating.

That means if there is space you can request an empty seat between you and the next person.

“We are deep cleaning beyond all measures, all theatres in town, all doorknobs, every chair rail,” Lareau said.

It's a virus they never saw coming and with little profit margin, theatre companies say there are no real contingency plans.

“If we are forced to shut down we have to turn to our community,” Brindley said.

Seattle Public Theatre says they have already canceled their annual auction that raised up to $60,000 every year.

They are currently working on putting the auction items online so they can raise money that way. Lareau says the online auction should be on their website in a couple of days.