Hurricane Ian, a projected by the National Hurricane Center as of Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. is the catalyst for business closures and evacuations all over Tampa Bay and surrounding areas.
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, American Stage got word that the final week of “Green Day’s American Idiot” would never happen. The show's last performance was set for Sunday, Oct. 2 but the St. Petersburg College — the building that houses the theatre’s stage — is closed until Sunday.
For American Stage and other Florida theatre companies, such as Jobsite, this means major performance closures. Live theatre is an industry that suffered major losses at the hand of COVID-19, and hurricane season is another battle that actors, creators, crew, and theatre artisans face each year.
Five days of performances lost makes for 900 tickets, seats that will sit empty while the city recovers from a major storm.
An early projection from American Stage executive director CJ Zygadlo states that the “Green Day’s American Idiot” closure will total $50,000 in tickets and concession losses for the theatre.
“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of everyone involved in our production of Green Day's American Idiot from the cast to the crew, staff and volunteers,” Zygadlo said. While we would have liked nothing more than to close out our final week of the production with the same high energy we opened with, Hurricane Ian had other ideas,”
American Stage isn’t alone in its bad timing.
Jobsite Theatre, a downtown non-for-profit company in residence at the Shimberg Playhouse at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts is closing its current show, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, for three days: Sept. 27-29.
The remaining showtimes are weather dependent.
This news comes after five days of closure due to cast COVID-19 reports, says Jobsite producing artistic director, David Jenkins.
The show was sold out for its first two weeks pre-COVID and pre-hurricane. Jenkins says that the closures may come out to a total of $20,000 in revenue loss.
“This is the financial reality of a hurricane, you can feel the effects for up to a week before the storm because once a hurricane is mentioned, all the oxygen is sucked out of the room,” Jenkins said. “People aren’t buying tickets to a show before a hurricane, and after they’re cleaning up the mess.”
While donations are important for any nonprofit theatre company, Jenkins urges supporters to donate their tickets even if they cannot make remaining shows, or buy seats to upcoming productions, such as October's Dracula.
“At the end of the day, we need an audience, and with everything that’s happened, it’s been difficult getting an audience,” Jenkins said. “The best thing people can do is buy tickets, even if it’s for the next show.”
The same goes for American Stage.
“It is unfortunate that we ended so abruptly, but just as the Florida sunshine will come back next week, we will move forward with our season and the magic of theatre will come alive again on our stage in November with The Colored Museum,” said executive director Zygadlo.
freeFall Theatre is not currently showing a production that will be impacted by the storm. However, 2017 when Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Florida, the impact from the storm caused a major roof leak that eventually destroyed the theatre’s roof.
freeFall Theatre marketing director and actor Matthre McGee remembers the fundraising efforts and rubble after the storm.
“Theatre artisans, they’ve weathered so many storms already, that ultimately is what makes it so depressing,” McGee. “We’re resilient though. Theatre people are resilient.”
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