Save Our Stages Act supports independent music venue, help still needed


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The new year is filled with renewed hope for workers in the entertainment industry.

The coronavirus relief bill earmarked $15 billion for small, independent music and theatre venues. Many have them shuttered in March and have not reopened since, leaving workers in the industry unemployed all year.

“It was incredibly busy between the concerts and the Broadway shows and the ballets and the symphonies, working almost every day and then March 13, everything stopped,” said Jenni Propst.

Propst used to work in lighting and as a stagehand. She worked in large and small productions for years. Now, she’s surviving off savings and unemployment checks.

“It’s not just one shop closed down, our whole industry is shut down,” Propst said.

The Save Our Stages Act, or the SOS Act, hopes to keep small, independent venues from shutting down for good. To qualify for federal grants venues have to have lost at least 25-percent of revenue.

They could get up to 45 percent of lost revenue back in initial grants. Grants are capped at $10 million.

But people in the industry are unsure if it will be enough.

“It’s impossible to say right now because we’ve never had this catastrophic of a loss,” said Nick McGaha with Arts North Carolina. McGaha said the industry is hopeful this will help keep venues open but it’s hard to tell at this point how long it will keep businesses above water.

The relief bill doesn’t put money in the pockets of people working behind the scenes like Propst. It’s aimed at operators, producers, promoters and talent representatives. However, the bill means lighting, audio and costume professionals have a place to work in the future.

“I just want a career again. I want to be able to go back to work and have something to go back to,” Propst said.

The relief bill’s extended unemployment however will provide some aid.

“The conversation we’re going to be having over the next several months is, those performers, those stagehands, and all those arts workers, how are we supporting them?” said McGaha.

Those workers like Propst are still waiting for the day they to get to use their skills again.

“I trained my whole life to do what I do,” said Propst.

Professionals have pent up their creativity for months. When they come out on the other this, McGaha says entertainment could be better than ever.

“It could be a whole new art renaissance as we head into the next decade,” McGaha said.

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