Theatre Shutdown - One Year On

Updated: Mar 18


What if?, What Now? What Next? is a podcast designed to explore the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the world of the Performing Arts, the ways in which the Performing Arts Community is tackling the problems they have encountered & explore what happens next. This article tells you how and why our Facebook Page started and why we're launching a new Podcast.


On March 12th 2020 Broadway was effectively shutdown as New York City and state officials banned most gatherings of more than 500 people, and required smaller venues to cut their capacity by half

In the UK, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson suggested to UK Citizens; 'You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues'. He stopped short however, of forcing venues to close, leaving The Society of London Theatre (SOLT), which represents the West End and their sister organization, UK Theatre (representing 165 venues around the UK), to do the job for him, announcing that Theatres would close from Monday 16, March 2020, until further notice.

As I sat in my Vermont office receiving this news in disbelief, I was in the early stages of Producing a new Stage Play about the Life of Frida Kahlo with my co-producer (BBC and ITV actress, Rebecca Grant) and our new playwright, Gael Le Cornec. I was also just starting to plan two Music Production Tours in the UK for Rebecca Swing and The Latinola Project with their Producer, Lisa Richards.


With all normal work related activity abruptly stopped in it's tracks, life became a daily routine of scouring through social media posts; some filled with despair and sad stories and yet others trying to find a way to keep 'making', to fill their days experimenting with new ways of getting content 'out there'.

I remember reading an article on FaceBook, originally posted in Medium.com. It was only April 8, 2020 (not even a month in to the shutdown) but as I saw the headline I was dumb-struck. Had we already reached the point where one could write an article called 'The Forgotten Art of Assembly'.?

The top highlight in this piece by Nicholas Berger? - "We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one. It is only in this acknowledgment that we will survive. The internet isn’t going to save us, we are."

There was much in this piece that I could relate to and agree with as a reflection of the angst and fears I and many of my colleagues were clearly feeling. The number of tweets and re-tweets of it's content bore witness to that! There were also parts that didn't sit so comfortably with me.


I sat back in my faux-leather, ergonomically flawed office chair and sank back to watching (for the 100th time) the haunting and superbly edited (Tiago Teixeira) video of a World in Lockdown with the music of Disturbed's version of 'Sound of Silence'....Now I'm really depressed!!

Of course, the rebuttal was swiftly published and eloquently stated by Siobhan O'Loughlin; The Remembered Act of Assembly (Opinion). Siobhan's response shook me from my torpor as she metaphorically grabbed me by the shirt collar yelling...DON'T BE SAD, GET MAD & DO SOMETHING!

But What?


These two contrasting responses to the Pandemic rolled around in my mind but what struck me most was the level of engagement and discussion of their diametrically opposing views and how energized people were in stating their own thoughts. The kernel of an idea had started to take root in my mind and on April 14, 2020, the day I read Siobhan's article, I set up a FaceBook Page; 'What if? What Now? What Next? calling upon the support of Rachel Murray (Co-Founder - Naked Theatre Company)and Tim Barden (MD of Spotlight Vermont & Co-founder of Vermont Musical Theatre Academy)to become Admin's for the page and help spread the word.

Our objective?

To be:

A discussion group for Creatives asking questions about the future of the Arts in the post-pandemic world.

The Questions posed to our members?

  1. What if we start with a blank sheet?

  2. What can we do Now that gives greater access to the Arts and increased security & opportunity for Artists, Creatives & Producers?

  3. What happens Next? How do we achieve the changes we wish to see?

It was a small start but what else did I have to do? In the end almost 400 members from across the World have joined us in just under a year, contributing many fascinating and challenging ideas, articles and opportunities for Arts Practitioners to have their say and invite others to view new works and develop new skills.

For the last 11 months we have remained a repository of ideas, a talking shop and a loose networking community but this weekend, on the anniversary of the Shutdown of Broadway, we will launch our new Podcast; 'What if?, What Now?, What Next? (Available wherever you get your downloads & through our Facebook Page.)


As we start to reach out to and beyond our current membership, we will be engaging with Unions, Politicians, Arts Practitioners and Funders using a series of remotely recorded (Covid-safe) interviews, asking questions of those who currently act as the 'gatekeepers' and those who want a return to 'Normal' and those who see a different future believing that 'Normal' isn't working for the majority of people in the Arts.


Do we need something new...something that challenges the old way of doing things? Join us this weekend for our Podcast Debut as I interview British based Theatre Producer; Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment and look at how one of the UK's most influential Theatre-Maker's has been dealing with the Pandemic. The first episode will be published on Sunday, March 14, 2021.


Our first call-to-action? Follow us, leave reviews, pose questions to future guests (you'll get more notice next time!) and help us spread the word by telling your friends and colleagues about us.


Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/@ellerysterling

Podcast Artwork: www.painttopaper.com