Opinion

Luring Theater Audiences Back After Covid

More from our inbox:

  • Burying the Truth About Northern Ireland Killings
  • Catering to Students With Food Allergies
  • How My Grandson Helped Me Heal
  • Anti-China Bias

Credit…Jessica Tezak for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Theaters Thrived on Subscribers, Till They Quit” (front page, Aug. 31):

I cringed when I read this piece. My husband and I are guilty as charged, recognizing ourselves, painfully, in the interviews with former theater company subscribers.

Before the pandemic, we subscribed to nearly every theater company in the city. Our weekends were filled with Saturday night and Sunday matinee performances. We were such dedicated audience members that we timed our trips to Florida based on the City Center “Encores!” offerings.

Sadly, we lost the habit during the Covid lockdown. Becoming grandparents during the pandemic offered still more reasons to shun crowds and find enough entertainment and joy in the little ones.

Even when theater resumed, we remain uncomfortable in large groups and are much more selective about what we choose to see. We kept two subscriptions — at the Public Theater and Lincoln Center, which maintained mask-required performances longer than most.

I am sorry to see so many worthy theater companies struggle, and know that I am partly to blame.

Merri Rosenberg
Ardsley, N.Y.

To the Editor:

There’s no doubt that theaters in America face challenges. But our 140- to 175-seat professional theater in Raleigh is enjoying a nearly 10 percent rise in season subscriptions.

How was this accomplished? A few years ago, we hired a full-time development director — unusual for a theater of our size — who accelerated our promotional efforts. Our plays are curated to include regional or U.S. premieres, generating excitement for lesser-known work.

We have always been debt-free throughout our 26 years, and we control our own facility, have created many small and diverse revenue streams, and have strong support from city, county and state arts agencies. We deliberately underestimate our income and overestimate our expenses, giving us a significant cushion when something unexpected happens.

Theater is a business as well as an art, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to balance those needs in service to our community.

Jerry Davis
Raleigh, N.C.
The writer is the artistic director of Burning Coal Theater.

To the Editor:

As I like to say: “If Joe Papp can do ‘Shakespeare in the Park,’ we can do Chekhov in the parking lot.” Performances like these are one of the ways my nonprofit arts organization brought our audiences back at the end of the pandemic.

As producers of Connecticut’s popular lunchtime play-reading series, “Play With Your Food,” we’ve learned a lot about survival from our five-star Westport Library, which has evolved from an excellent library into a vibrant center for the community. Like it or not, books are not enough, and I fear that it is much the same for theater.

We have been developing programs: talkbacks, theater lovers’ book groups, reading lists, a book group where we read plays out loud together, and, my current stock in trade, staged readings, to name a few low-cost, engaging, community-building activities.

We try to remind our audiences of the joy and the unique fun that can be had being part of our community. I think of it as an investment in our future.

Carole Schweid
Westport, Conn.
The writer was in the original Broadway cast of “A Chorus Line” and is the author of “Staged Reading Magic.”

Burying the Truth About Northern Ireland Killings

Credit…Rob Stothard for The New York Times

To the Editor:

“A Law That Ireland Doesn’t Need or Want,” by Megan K. Stack (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 3), teases out the question of whether the British government will continue to obstruct investigations into killings in Northern Ireland, a question that has pained victims’ families for over half a century. The British government has buried the truth of its collusion in the killings of its own citizens since the beginning of the Troubles.

As the writer states, this collusion is an “undeniable fact.” The amnesty bill is opposed by all parties in Northern Ireland because the British government has no credibility to impartially referee cases, much less to investigate itself.

Jonathan Caine’s letter to the Irish American Unity Conference, referred to in the article, justified this heartless bill by stating that for over 50 years, “traditional criminal justice outcomes, such as prosecutions, are vanishingly rare.”

Mr. Caine, a parliamentary under secretary of state for Northern Ireland, failed to admit that his government has deliberately stonewalled inquiries and derailed criminal justice proceedings for those 50 years.

Now traumatized families must depend on the Irish government to bring legal action in the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the bill once it is approved, and that is a shame.

Peter C. Kissel
Washington
The writer is national president of the Irish American Unity Conference.

Catering to Students With Food Allergies

Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Re-education of the Dining Hall” (Food, Sept. 6):

Medically required food restrictions are considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Colleges do not outsource this responsibility when they outsource their dining services.

The article focused on schools that are trying hard to meet this challenge, but, unfortunately, many do not, which can lead to food insecurity. Mandatory meal plans are both a community builder and a revenue stream, but they also come with the responsibility of providing inclusive, safe food.

As long as colleges have required meal plans, students with celiac or food allergies must be provided with inclusive, safe dining.

Sheryl Harpel
Short Hills, N.J.
The writer is the founder of Gluten Free Friends, which advocates for safe dining for college students with food restrictions.

How My Grandson Helped Me Heal

“Is this lake where King Triton lives?” — David French with his granddaughter, Lila, in 2023.Credit…Nancy French

To the Editor:

I greatly enjoyed reading David French’s Aug. 28 column, “Three Generations Under One Roof.” His expression of gratitude for time spent with family mirrors my own.

Like Mr. French, my family was experiencing a health crisis in 2020. My mother was in a memory care nursing home at the time and she died alone, because her family was denied access due to Covid constraints. This created a deep grief in me that I struggled to overcome.

At the same time my daughter and son-in-law needed child care help with my then 3-year-old grandson, Brendan. I began watching him most days and was drawn into a world filled with joy and wonder. I attended the birthday party of Godzilla and created a pillow den for wolf pups. Brendan and I became very close and he helped me heal.

Then his child care program reopened and he returned to school and I returned to my own routine. For all the horror that Covid rained upon my family, I shall be forever grateful for my playmate.

Kathleen Burns
Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

Anti-China Bias

Credit…Adam Maida

To the Editor:

Re “The Real Reason Republicans Are So Obsessed With China” (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 3):

Peter Beinart gets to the heart of Republicans’ anti-China bias in the last lines of his essay: They dehumanize Chinese in racial terms and see China as a “threat to white Christian power.”

Hopefully U.S. policymakers will never be influenced by either but instead will look for ways the two powers can work together toward common goals that benefit humanity and the environment. As the U.S. shores up client states in a China face-off, I have a crazy dream of the Dalai Lama appearing between the two powers to talk sense to both.

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif.

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