NEW YORK CITY: The League of Independent Theater and IndieSpace are calling on elected officials to take action and protect small businesses and performance venues throughout the city. The league, established in 2008 to protect theatres after the Great Recession, is advocating for the New York state legislature and New York City Council to suspend commercial rent payments and to provide long-term rent stabilization during this time of pause.
On May 28, the League will host an Emergency Town Hall online about small venue rent forgiveness. This event will launch the independent theatre community’s involvement in the #cancelrent movement.
“Our community stood up and made painful sacrifices for the health and safety of our beloved city,” said the League’s acting director, Aimee Todoroff, in a statement. “Now this often overlooked sector is simply asking that, while we are reinventing the cultural landscape, we are not also burdened with a backlog of debt accrued during a period when our work was involuntarily interrupted.”
Just this month, Shetler Studios & Theatre in Manhattan closed its doors permanently after 30 years, and the Secret Theatre in Queens also announced it will not reopen. According to a 2019 study by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, performance venues with 99 seats or less as well as nontraditional venues produce the majority of live performance in New York City each year. The study found that small theatres employ thousands of workers and boost surrounding small businesses.
“Wild Project might be considered a small venue with our 89 seats,” said producing artistic director Ana Mari de Quesada and producing director Tom Escovar in a joint statement. “But to our artists and neighbors, we are an incredibly vital component to the economic heartbeat of the East Village. We are a place that nurtures growth in every aspect, by every metric, where artists and ideas come together to inspire the community and keep the neighborhood together and alive with the New York beat. Rent forgiveness will give us a chance to weather this great storm and remain a beacon and place that all artists and communities call home.”