Summary of When Will We Want to Be in a Room Full of Strangers Again?

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Live theater has become a casualty of the global pandemic. Productions are shut down and when or how they’ll reopen remains unclear. Theater institutions, large and small, fear financial catastrophe. Helen Lewis reports in The Atlantic on the struggles of performers, writers, staff and audiences members. Will theater become less innovative and adventurous? Will ticket buyers be fewer in number and increasingly wealthy? And how will both government-subsidized and commercial sectors of the theater industry fare in the uncertain and challenging future?

About the Author

A London-based staffer for The Atlantic, Helen Lewis wrote Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights.



The coronavirus pandemic poses a potentially existential threat to the theater and the arts that depend on it.

No one knows when theaters will re-open or what reopening might look like. Will a return to the shared space of a live performance be possible by spring of 2021? Many theater organizations report that they won’t be able to last that long without major financial support.

Take, for example, London’s West End theater industry, which is usually an economic boon to Great Britain. Its artistic influence and contributions ripple out to the worlds of the arts and entertainment. The shutdown is inflicting heavy financial damage to even the largest theatrical companies and devastating smaller regional and experimental companies.

The money hit is particularly hard on theaters which depend on government support. The Conservative Party, now in control in the United Kingdom, has historically frowned on largesse to the arts. The Arts Council states clearly that it does not have the budget to support...

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