New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang addressed the need for a recovery of the theatre industry in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown in a “Performing Arts Revival” proposal, released April 5.
Among the entrepreneur-turned-politician’s pitches is a program inspired by revitalization efforts following 9/11. Yang says his administration would negotiate the purchasing of “hundreds of thousands of tickets” to Broadway shows, using both government funds and agreements with private corporations like J.P. Morgan and Big Four accounting firms. The majority of those tickets would then go to non-profits and local businesses to distribute. His plan offers a potential tiered breakdown, from premium seats going to those who spend at least $1,500 at participating businesses to a lottery system for those who spend $100.
Yang also threw in a suggestion of personal seat licenses at Broadway houses, similar to season tickets to sporting events. The proposal did not elaborate on the logistics of implementing such a model to the theatre industry, where productions can run at the same venue for several years, and the venues that do have pre-scheduled turnarounds are already operated by subscriber-based theatre companies.
Citing the economic impact of at-home streaming, the candidate promised that his administration would “establish a pilot program to support high-quality streaming of theatre productions,” particularly while demand for remote viewing outweighs in-person attendance. Yang’s proposal acknowledges the success of Hamilton on Disney+ as well as streaming service BroadwayHD’s prominence in this space, calling the latter a potential “good framework” for the city-run platform. While not mentioning unions by name in his streaming agenda, Yang says that his administration would “work with the industry to overcome any contractual challenges in making these projects happen.”
Yang counters his proposed initiatives that bank on the contributions of the private sector and incentivize individual spending with calls for equity and accessibility in the arts. He notes that the block tickets purchased would in part reach “those who typically do not partake in the magic of theatre,” and the administration would work to create more leadership opportunities for women and people of color in the industry. Additionally, Yang says he would build off of the Save Our Stages Act to bring relief not just to venue operators but also artists and theatre workers impacted by job loss.
The 2021 mayoral primaries will take place June 22, with the general election scheduled for November 2.