April 20th, 2020
To all the members of our Forward Family –
I hope that you are well right now. We are now nearly a month into staying “Safer At Home” (for those of us fortunate enough to be able to stay home). So much of what we were used to in our daily lives has been upended, and we can’t really know how – or when – we will be returning to whatever the ‘new normal’ will be.
At the same time, we also know that some things will NOT change – foremost being our support for each other in this remarkable community. And, of course, our need for art that uplifts us, entertains us, and unites us.
Please know that Forward Theater is here for you now, and we will continue to be here for you in the season – and years – ahead. So I wanted to be in touch with you all to share what we’re working on and how decisions are being made. What we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and what we’re planning for.
Our 2019-2020 mainstage season came to an abrupt end when we canceled all performances of our final show of this season, The Amateurs, just a week before opening night. We had already invested production costs and, in line with our mission to support Wisconsin theater artists, we paid all artists and technicians the full amount of their contracts for the scheduled run. We rely on ticket sales to offset costs and without those revenues, we experienced a substantial financial loss. Those early weeks required so much rapid decision-making, and we are unendingly grateful to our audiences and donor community for putting us into a strong-enough financial position to make some of those difficult decisions a little easier.
We are proud to be living our values – especially right now – by:
• Maintaining our commitment to employ Wisconsin’s professional theater artists, and fully honoring all their contracts;
• Continuing our community engagement efforts and new play development series, even if some programs may need to move online;
• Keeping our staff at full employment and benefits, while companies around the country are furloughing or laying off their employees; and
• Moving ahead with confidence to bring all of next season’s plays to our community, even while making contingency plans for ways to ensure that we keep our audiences – and our artists – safe.
And as we spend these days and weeks at home, we are hard at work to keep in touch with all of you. Keeping up with new episodes of our Theater Forward podcast, now recorded remotely from our homes. Beginning a new tradition of “Sundays with Forward” – conversations with artists from our upcoming season shared live on FaceBook each Sunday at 2pm, and available to watch at any time. Visiting via Zoom meetings and online classrooms with theater students at local middle schools, high schools, and colleges.
As we look – with no small amount of uncertainty – at the season ahead, many of you have been asking us “how can we help?” And one answer rises to the very top: subscribe. Renew your existing subscription, or join our subscriber family for the first time. Consider gifting a subscription to a friend who’s really got your back right now. All of our artistic and financial successes to date can be traced back to the loyalty of our incredible subscribers. Your commitment to come with us on our theatrical journeys lets us plan for each new season with confidence and boldness. We depend on that commitment under any circumstances, but never more so than right now.
And please know that we are determined to honor your commitment to us by doing everything in our power to be able to bring you next season’s amazing plays AND keep you and our community safe. We’re guaranteeing free & easy exchanges, and refunds for any cancelled performances. We’re partnering with the Overture Center’s hardworking facilities staff to make sure that when the theaters reopen they are sanitized and operated in accordance with all health guidelines. We’re negotiating with our national unions and licensing houses to explore alternative methods of sharing our stories. And we’re developing flowcharts for every imaginable scenario (oh, the many, many scenarios!) so that we are well-positioned to nimbly and transparently respond to whatever lies ahead.
Amidst all this uncertainty, here are some things I know for sure: Forward Theater’s audiences and artists are among the best anywhere in the world. We are committed to doing right by ALL of you. And when the time comes that we can be together again in the Playhouse to laugh, connect, and revel in our shared humanity, I will be crying tears of joy.
Onward. Upward. Forward.
Jen Uphoff Gray