Live Performance Faces Final Curtain Without Pandemic Insurance

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Reuters is reporting that NYC theatreland is suffering from a lack of insurance coverage after Covid-19. Broadway producers, directors, general managers, and insurance brokers told Reuters that shows face an extra hurdle because policies now exclude coverage for communicable diseases.

“Right now most insurers, if not all, have come out with a virus or communicable disease exclusion that they’re putting on their policies,” said Peter Shoemaker, managing director of the New York entertainment division at insurance broker DeWitt Stern.

Shoemaker said he recently spoke with insurers at Lloyd’s of London to see if special coverage was available. “I still haven’t seen anything for covering a pandemic,” he said.

Insurers’ caution also is halting films and television shows, which need insurance to get the financial bond necessary to start production. There is an obvious problem with insuring live theatre productions where actors physically fight, kiss shout in someone else’s face, or touch each other. This is a good way for Corona to transmit, then there’s the make-up and costume fitting process in some productions to consider.

“We are truly at the mercy of science,” Tony Award-winning director John Rando said in an interview, referring to a vaccine. “We need science to come through. We need people to feel safe.”

In the UK the Royal Exchange theatre company in Manchester recently told media that it would lay off some 65% of its staff. Despite having around £500,000 in cash in the bank, according to the most recent accounts on Companies House, the limited company which runs the Royal Exchange theatre presumably cannot see how socially distanced productions in its unique, round-shaped, and tiered theatre structure, can pay their way.

Nuffield Theatre Southampton recently went into administration, while Newcastle’s Theatre Royal has also announced redundancies. The restrictions on mass gatherings are a problem right now of course, but long term, insurers need to come up with some type of solution for arts venues, or a great swathe of Western culture faces extinction as plays, gigs, nightclubs, and performance art events all face cancellation without public liability and pandemic cover.

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