The following is testimony delivered on March 23, 2016 to the New York City Council committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations.
Testimony of Guy Yedwab, Managing Director
League of Independent Theater
Before the New York City Council
Preliminary Budget Hearing - Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations
March 23, 2016
Thank you to Chairman Jimmy Van Bramer and to the committee for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Guy Yedwab, Managing Director for the League of Independent Theater. The League is a 501 (c) 6 Political Advocacy Organization, and is testifying today on behalf of the city’s 50,000 independent theatre artists, 86% of whom vote.
“I am here today, to join with other members of the cultural community, to ask for a funding increase of $40 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to be equally divided between the CIGs (Cultural Institutions Group) and the CDF (Cultural Development Fund) for grant making.”
Our membership includes individual theatre-makers and performance venues from across all five boroughs who self-produce work outside of established institutions, in venues 99 seats or less.
I ran into one of one of our members this weekend, and I asked him what he’s working on.
He mentioned that while working on his current show, company members were also working on theater workshops with local Brooklyn elementary school students. The company was also partnering with a midtown restaurant, the Shakespeare, to stage shows on the weekend to help attract patrons.
This is just one theater company, sharing the talents of their profession with students and local businesses.
There are at least 400 of these theater companies throughout each of the five boroughs, attracting visitors, steering audience members towards local businesses, delivering workshops, partnering with community organizations.
And these theater companies are just a small slice of the larger cultural community – the dance companies, painters, musicians, and more who are doing the same.
These theater companies do this community work and their own artistic programming on extremely thin budgets, particularly as the cost of space goes up year over year.
Since 2008, we’re aware of 73 performance venues that have gone under, each impacting thousands of artists and tens of thousands of audience members who come through their doors each year.
We’re aware of at least two theater venues that are likely to lose their spaces in the next six months, like the Spiral Studio Theater which lost its space last year after years of serving audiences and artists fifty and older.
That’s why I am here today with our colleagues in the cultural community, to ask for a funding increase of $40 million, to help sustain these and a thousand other programs in this city.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.