The Rev Theatre Co., which is currently presenting a musical about Buddy Holly, is one of several arts organizations asking the government to help the industry "Not Fade Away" due to COVID-19.
The musical, "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story," is available on Broadway on Demand through Sept. 16, and will be screened at the Finger Lakes Drive-In the next day. It's the only show of the Auburn theater company's 2020 season that wasn't outright canceled due to the pandemic. In place of the other ones, the company presented a virtual show, "The Rev Concert: A Celebration of Art and Community," earlier this summer. Both that and "Buddy," a jukebox musical with more than 20 of the seminal rock 'n' roller's songs, were produced with a skeleton crew and recorded by WSYR.
The shows were produced and recorded at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in accordance with New York state's guidance on social distancing and sanitation, The Rev's producing artistic director, Brett Smock, told The Citizen earlier this summer. But that guidance still prohibits The Rev from welcoming audiences into the playhouse, as it hopes to do Nov. 27 with the first ever production of "Million Dollar Quartet Christmas." That's because live theater, along with movies, most concerts and other forms of indoor arts and entertainment, are considered high-risk by the state.
As a result, arts and entertainment organizations in central New York will have lost at least $15 million by the end of September, according to a survey by CNY Arts.
Arts and entertainment in the Auburn area have been no exception. Track Cinema at Fingerlakes Mall said its 2020 business is down about 70% compared to last year without being able to screen movies since March. Moondog's Lounge in downtown Auburn can't survive much longer, owner Lynn Stillman said, after going five months without the concerts that draw people there and then being told by the state that the venue can only host unadvertised, "incidental music." And The Rev has lost at least $1.8 million, a figure Smock reported at a city public hearing in May.
The Payroll Protection Program was one source of relief for these businesses, helping them keep staff paid during the pandemic. But it didn't go far enough, or last long enough, to make up for six months without patrons. That's why The Rev and other organizations are asking Congress to pass the RESTART Act, which they hope will provide them the support they need. Introduced by Sens. Michael Bennet and Todd Young in May, the act would "(answer) the calls of the hardest-hit restaurants, gyms, hotels, retailers, and other businesses" with longer-term, more flexible loans.
In a post on social media, The Rev lit its stage red in support of the act, and asked its followers to donate to the organization.
A similar post was made by Auburn Public Theater. Unable to host movies, live music, comedy and more, the downtown theater had to cut one of its four full-time employees this summer. Though the theater has been programming regularly on Facebook Live, and recently opened a café to help sustain operations, it believes the live event industry will "collapse" without government aid.
Smock expressed the same urgency in an interview with The Citizen earlier this summer.
"Arts organizations are typically living paycheck to paycheck. That's why we rely on support," he said. "We can't underestimate this moment in history and what it'll do to us."
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