This story was originally published on May 19, 2020.
The Hartford "Off-Broadway" theater says bravo to TD Bank
During the COVID-19 pandemic, TheaterWorks was determined to find a way to make sure the show would go on. While its Hartford, Connecticut, 93-year-old recently redesigned theater building is dark and empty, they continue to offer lively virtual entertainment.
The current offerings include a Living Room Concert series over Facebook and Instagram and Get Sauced, where Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero invites the audience in his kitchen to hear his tales about TheaterWorks and other topics.
These virtual performances are a great way to continue engaging with their audience during stay-at-home orders. But the concerns about their financial future weighed heavy. Thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), TheaterWorks is far more optimistic about its future.
"We can breathe now," Rob said.
Bleak outlook before PPP loan
TheaterWorks has a loyal audience of 5,000 subscribers. It's known as the "Off-Broadway" venue in Connecticut's capital city because of its focus on new and contemporary works. The 35-year-old theater company completed its redesign of its home, a 200-seat theater in a nearly $6 million project completed last fall, with some of the construction costs financed by TD Bank.
This year had been shaping up to be a great year for the theater company before it closed in March. It was a devastating blow as TheaterWorks depends on dollars from patrons coming in the door. While it held on for a few weeks, the business was unable to continue paying its 22 employees (19 fulltime and three part-time), so 10 were furloughed while others were put on salary reductions and alternating monthly furloughs. The outlook was bleak until the PPP was enacted.
"The timing couldn't have been worse for this shutdown to happen," said Steve Litchfield, TD Regional Vice President, who has worked with TheaterWorks throughout its three-year relationship with the bank.
TheaterWorks was excited to work with Steve to apply for a PPP loan of $251,905 when TD's digital application process opened up on April 6, 2020.
"I am happily, totally celebrating our relationship with Steve and TD. We are very connected with TD," Rob said.
A lifeline to the future
"We have a great relationship with Steve. We finished our PPP application on a Friday and texted Steve over the weekend. It was stressful, but there is an elevated relationship between TD and TheaterWorks," Rob said. "He helped us so much to get through the stress of it. With PPP support, we can get through this."
Steve and his team were able to offer guidance as to the required documentation for the loan application which made the process easier for TheaterWorks. Steve notes that TheaterWorks is a well-run organization with a strong financial footing, a long operating history and an unmatched passion in its mission.
However, the bank's relationship with TheaterWorks and other cultural entities goes beyond those critical factors.
"For me, cultural activities are what make a community strong and vibrant because they stimulate emotions and create a dialogue," Steve said. "It's important for the bank to support diversity in culture and community. It's what makes TD what it is."
With the PPP funding, Rob hopes to have all employees back before the end of June. He's hopeful about the future and planning the season even though it will be a different normal than before the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter what though, live theater performances are never going away, according to Rob.
"Theaters touch people, it's an essential, communal experience," he said. "The way it connects audience and actors, really changes people, it's a whole experience, we are missing that. When we get back, into that space, it is going to be so euphoric and great. I can't wait."