Theatre at the time of Coronavirus
That's not the title of a new book, but actually a "slogan" that was often seen on Facebook in the last two weeks in Italy. I would like to share with the fellow members the current situation here and update you on how the performing art field is being affected by it.
As you might know, Italian government reacted to the initial spread of the coronavirus in Italy with a massive prevention campaign. The aim is to deal with the emergency while preventing the stress of the healthcare system: a huge numbers of tests (present date, more than 23.300) is performend to detect all the people carrying the virus (even the ones without symptoms) and the country is forced into a block, in order to slow down the spread (and the hospitals' occupancy) while the tests are performed and the people isolated.
What does it mean in terms of daily life and performing art?
From Sunday 23rd February, theatres, museums and all the cultural venues were closed in most part of the North, as locations with a high risk of infection. Many Festivals, conferences and events were also cancelled, or at least postponed. International cooperation is questioned, as we can't exaclty foresee what lies ahead.
The initial precautions taken for Lombardy and Veneto (the most affected areas), where quickly adopted also in the neighbouring regions; other local government (Region or municipalities) in the not affected areas of the country also decided to join the block, as form of prevention.
That results, in the first week only, in around 7.400 performances cancelled, with a loss in term of tickets sold that reaches 10,1 million euro, plus travels, artist fee and all the other expenses already paid.
But there's more: the Italian system is mostly based on public and private funds, that are stricly connected to quantitative parameters such as number of shows, number of employed people, number of spectators for each show. With the performances cancelled, most of the sector will not reach the expected numbers, resulting in a cut of the annual funds.
On Friday 28th February, the Italian Ministry of Culture Dario Franceschini hosted a urgent meeting with representatives from the sector (such as Federvivo and C.Re.S.Co.) to immediately react and insert specific instructions in the national measures the government is working on, such as:
- providing certain flexibility in all the funds' parameters, advising also other institutions to adopt it;
- listing the cultural enterprises together with the others that are strongly affected and deserve supporting measures (such as restaurants, hotels, tourism related activities, ...);
- dealing with the "holes" in the bureaucratic apparatus, where, for examples, measures supporting workers are already being put in place, but with criteria that will never match the specificity of performing art (type of contracts, regulamentation, ...).
While we are dealing with the second week of the block in the North and more and more events are postponed, performing art sector is reacting using social network: orchestra performing in streaming in an empy theatre, actors inventing a "chain letter" system on Facebook posting a video where they read books or plays, radio hosting discussions and conferences.
Personally, some questions emerge, that will be worth analyzing in the upcoming future.
Even if we can (hopefully) expect that the situation will be normalized in a couple of weeks, with theaters opening again, our schedule for Spring will be a lot blanker and, probably, with no long distance travels.
We will spend more time locally and we will find ways to cooperate without attending so many events in person. We will need to react to the negative impact, elaborate guidelines for the future and be prepared at the idea of the audience not feeling comfortable in joining crowded events.
What would that mean for us? Would that change our perspective and practices?
Thank you for reading me and I'm here for questions, to know more on your situation and to share thoughts.
Ps: if you can read Italian and are interested in stay updated, I suggest to follow ateatro (http://www.ateatro.it/webzine/)
UPDATE 6th March 2020
On 4th March, the Italian Government has decided to apply the restriction rules to the whole country, advised by the a Scientific Committee. The reason is, again, the balance between the spread of the desease in its "strong" first hit and the capacity of hospitals.
Following the restriction, all theatrical activities in Italy is now suspended until April 3rd.
A new meeting was held at the Ministry yesterday in order to study the possible solutions.