In May 2020, amid the devastating impact of COVID-19, TCG made the difficult decision to pause the print edition of American Theatre for at least six months. As with so many things during the pandemic, six months became 12, then one year became three. In that time, AmericanTheatre.org covered the impacts of the pandemic, the innovations that helped theatres and artists press forward, and the everyday stories that make theatre so vital to our communities. Still, we kept hearing about the value of the print edition and calls for its return. For an ephemeral art form, the tangible witness of AT in print was sorely missed.
Now it returns—a “reopening” of sorts for the magazine, even as our theatre ecology continues to rebalance and adjust in the midst of compounding crises. (Go here to subscribe to the print edition.) The ongoing impacts of COVID-19 have intensified pre-existing challenges, including the decline of the subscription model and persistently negative working capital. Inflation and rising labor costs have made everything more expensive, and for many theatres, audiences are far below pre-pandemic levels. Climate change has exacerbated flooding, wildfires, and other catastrophic events, putting further strain on impacted theatres. For freelance theatre workers, these crises have only worsened a financial precarity that was already too often the norm.
Yet as is always the case with our theatre ecology, there is no single story that can capture the diversity of the whole. Some theatres and theatre workers are thriving. We can build from those bright spots as we recover. And we must do more than just rebuild; we must also transform our models into a just and thriving theatre ecology that works for all of us.
We also heard from Todd London, author of the forthcoming TCG Books publication The Long Revolution: Sixty Years on the Frontlines of the American Theater, which features essays, speeches, and manifestos from Arena Stage founder Zelda Fichandler. Todd shared some of Zelda’s writing and expanded on it, noting that to meet this moment, “We need the revolutionaries and the incrementalists, institutionalists and individualists. We need all the ideas. Some things can be changed, some need to be torn down, some need to be born anew—we’re all learning which is which.”
Let us revere biodiversity (of form, of aesthetic, of story).
Let us celebrate bioregionalism (think global, act local).
Let us be like nutrient-rich soil (regenerative and moving always toward new life).
This ecological framework—one that acknowledges the interdependence and porousness of our world—
is needed more than ever. We need abundance and accountability, not scarcity and division. Artists, administrators, audience members, production staff, trustees, and the plays themselves move freely between the diverse organizations and communities of our ecology. Within our ecology, American Theatre has a critical role to play in bearing witness to that accountability and abundance.
I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to TCG’s organizational and individual members, our board of directors, staff members, funders, to all of our readers—and to audiences everywhere. TCG’s mission is to lead for a just and thriving theatre ecology. We can’t do this work without you.
Teresa Eyring (she/her) is executive director of Theatre Communications Group.
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