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By Bruce DeMara Culture ReporterWed., March 25, 2020

An organization representing members of 164 theatre, dance and opera companies is projecting a loss in ticket revenue of $500 million over the next three months and pleading to be included in the federal government’s economic stimulus program.

The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts based the estimate on a survey of its members, which include large organizations such as the National Ballet of Canada, the Stratford and Shaw Festivals and Mirvish Productions and smaller independent theatre companies including Soulpepper, Tarragon and the Theatre Centre.

“You can’t overstate it enough, that this is unprecedented. It’s a very challenging time for our industry, for everybody. We need help. The only way (the performing arts) sector is going to recover from this is we need help from Ottawa and we need help quickly. We need a relief package, we need a stimulus package,” said alliance executive director Jacoba Knaapen.

Knaapen said the arts community is getting “maximum flexibility” from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council in terms of receiving grant money sooner rather than later but needs a federal “relief package” as soon as possible. 

About 86 per cent of the members who responded to the survey have reported a loss of ticket sale revenue and about 82 per cent are expecting a decrease in philanthropic support for their organizations, Knaapen said, noting grants and donations are a significant source of revenue for arts after ticket sales.

“Just looking at the stock market, donors are losing 30 per cent of their portfolios. So that’s a serious problem,” she said.

Richard Rose, artistic director of Tarragon Theatre, said the company has already been forced to close four shows and has delayed announcing its upcoming fall season.

“We want to go ahead with announcing (the upcoming season) but there’s just this uncertainty about going to the theatre,” Rose said, adding Tarragon is hoping to offer support to some of the artists in the cancelled shows.

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