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Small Venue Rent Forgiveness Town Hall - Hosted by the League of Independent Theater and IndieSpace

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Small Venue Rent Forgiveness Town Hall - Hosted by the League of Independent Theater and IndieSpace

THE LEAGUE OF INDEPENDENT THEATER AND INDIESPACE CONVENES EMERGENCY TOWN HALL TO SUSPEND COMMERCIAL RENTS THURSDAY, MAY 28, 1PM


PANELISTS INCLUDE: SENATOR BRAD HOYLMAN, ASSEMBLY MEMBER ROBERT CARROLL, ASSEMBLY MEMBER HARVEY EPSTEIN, DEPUTY PUBLIC ADVOCATE DELSENIA GLOVER, JUSTIN KANTOR OF N.I.V.A., AND DEPUTY LEADER OF THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL JIMMY VAN BRAMER


The League of Independent Theater and sister organization IndieSpace are hosting a virtual town hall on Thursday, May 28th at 1pm to call upon elected officials to protect small arts organizations from being displaced during this crisis.


Since the beginning of the PAUSE in New York, small arts venues have been at a standstill, unable to generate any revenue while public events remain on hold for the greater good. Meanwhile, rents are due each month with no relief. As theater space after theater space announces permanent closures, 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.


Independent theaters, defined as venues with 99 seats or less as well as non-traditional venues, produce the majority of live performance in NYC per year, including all of the productions outside of Lower Manhattan, according to a 2019 study by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. The study found that small theaters employ thousands of workers across the city and act as economic tent poles for surrounding small businesses.


The League is calling upon the New York State legislature and New York City Council to suspend commercial rent payments (currently introduced in the State Legislature as S8125A / A10224A) and provide long-term rent stabilization to give arts venues a fighting chance to survive this pause.


The events of Wednesday, May 6th should act as an alarm bell for all those with an interest in sustaining the vitality of our community. Shetler Studios & Theatres closed its doors permanently after 30 years. Located in the heart of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s district, Shetler Studios represented a critical piece of theater infrastructure. A public notice from Shetler Studios explains “We have great pride in the facilities we built and the community we nurtured… The path to recovery is simply too steep for our small company.”

Later that day, The Secret Theatre, one of only three small arts venues producing theater in western Queens, announced its closure emotional video from Artistic Director Richard Mazda. “The plain truth is that the entire theater business is in such deep trouble now that I expect that we will be only one of many small theaters that will close.”


As the already limited number of rehearsal and performance spaces accessible to indie theater companies continues to dwindle, “the artists tasked with creating the innovation needed to revive our culture and refresh our economy are being forced into untenable financial circumstances,” says the League’s Acting Director Aimee Todoroff. “Our community stood up and made painful sacrifices for the health and safety of our beloved city. Now, this often overlooked sector is simply asking that, while we are reinventing the cultural landscape, we are not also burdened with a back-log of debt accrued during a period when our work was involuntarily interrupted.” 


Christina Perry, a co-founder of the Chain Theatre, says they are “home to a 65 seat Mainstage theatrical space and a 35 seat Studio Theatre. Our organization serves artists from underrepresented sectors who create and present in our space as well as the audiences who attend. We host approximately 150 theatre artists a month in our two theaters and 300 filmmakers annually. New York City is the theatre capital of the world. We aim to keep it that way. But if New York City is to continue to have not-for-profit theatre spaces in the five boroughs, Rent Relief must be granted."


Wild Project might be considered a small venue with our 89 seats,” say Ana Mari de Quesada Producing Artistic Director and Tom Escovar, Producing Director at the Wild Project “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."  


Terry Greiss, Co-Founder and  Executive Director of the Brooklyn based Irondale Ensemble Project, shares that "In the 11 years since Irondale turned the former Sunday school at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church into the Irondale Center, it has become a destination point for cutting edge theater, quality education and community engagement programs. But more than that, it has become a place where people gather to tell and hear stories that are important to them. It has become a center for people to come together-- a place to catalyze democratic activity through theater.  Now is the time that we need our community to stand by us... Rent abatement, reduction and assistance will help us face the unknown we are about to enter and know that we are not in it alone.”


“Since neither tenants nor landlords are to blame for this dilemma, why should the onus of solving it fall on tenants alone?” asks Carlo Altomere & Gia Lisa Krahne of Alchemical Studios. “The Alchemical and businesses like us employ thousands of people in NYC, and serve many thousands more… the closing of our businesses will have a considerable negative economic impact on NYC when the pandemic is over.”


“One thing that is painfully obvious during this pause is the desire for humans to connect face-to-face,” says Guy Yedwab, president of the League’s board of directors. “Even before the crisis, unregulated commercial rents over the last decade have closed dozens of venues. How the city responds to the looming threat of more closures will determine the future of our community for years to come.” 


The League of Independent Theater was founded in 2008 out of an emergency town hall in response to the sudden closures prompted by the start of the Great Recession. The planned Emergency Town Hall on Independent Theater will be the launching point for independent theater to fight alongside the #cancelrent movement and advocate for protections for the community.


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