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Theater closures in Boston bring layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts

A person walks past the Shubert Theatre earlier this year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced theaters to close.
A person walks past the Shubert Theatre earlier this year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced theaters to close.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file

No Boston-area theater company has escaped the blows delivered by the pandemic-caused shutdown, with some of them enacting layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts.

In addition to reductions in the permanent staff of some theater organizations, hundreds of jobs that were tied to individual productions — everything from actors, choreographers, and wardrobe supervisors to electricians, props masters, and concession workers — were lost when those shows were postponed or canceled.

Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company stands to lose roughly $6.3 million: $2 million in lost ticket revenue from the postponements of shows scheduled from March to June, $3.3 million from productions scheduled for this fall and winter, and more than $1 million in lost rental revenue. The Huntington recently laid off 11 staffers, furloughed 46 others, and eliminated four vacant positions, leaving a total remaining staff of 44.


At the Boch Center, which operates the Wang Theatre and the Shubert Theatre, the impact has been even more dire. Boch Center president and CEO Josiah A. Spaulding Jr. says he is projecting a 50 percent drop in gross revenue in fiscal year 2020 compared with the previous year, down from $32 million to $15 million.

Before the pandemic forced the postponement or cancellation of scores of performances at the Wang and Shubert, there were 58 permanent administrative staffers at the Boch Center; now, after layoffs and furloughs, only 17 remain, all of whom have taken pay cuts.

“My job is to make sure, despite the pain of having to let go of so many people, that the organization survives,‘' says Spaulding. “And I intend to do that.”

The spring productions that Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater had to postpone were projected to bring in $2 million, according to ART managing director Anna Fitzloff. Although the company did not announce any fall productions after the pandemic hit, it would have projected $2 million for that period also.


But there have been no layoffs or furloughs of the ART’s permanent staff of approximately 100. Because the theater company is part of Harvard University, its employees are employees of the university. While Harvard administrators considered layoffs or furloughs of university employees, they recently announced the university would not take that step “at this time.”

At the Emerson Colonial Theatre, general manager Erica Lynn Schwartz declined to give specific numbers but said most of the theater’s full-time staff has been furloughed. None of the employees has been laid off, she said. Broadway In Boston spokeswoman Ann Sheehan said that “with theaters closed we are working with a reduced work force” but also would not be specific, saying via e-mail: “We do not comment on employee personnel matters.”

At Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, eight administrative staff members have been furloughed since March. Artistic director Weylin Symes and managing director Amy Morin have accepted “significant reductions in hours through June and July in an effort to continue mitigating expenses,” according to a statement from the theater.

There have been no layoffs of year-round staff at Arts Emerson, which executive director David Howse attributed to “our integrated relationship with Emerson College.” SpeakEasy Stage Company, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Company One Theatre, and New Repertory Theatre have not cut staff, according to their spokespeople.

But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected. For instance, Watertown’s New Rep has sustained revenue losses of more than $500,000, or 30 percent of its annual operating budget. SpeakEasy lost roughly $250,000 in ticket sales and refunds for subscriptions in the spring, and it estimates further losses of $180,000 in the fall. At Company One, which had to postpone two of the three full productions it had scheduled, overall revenue dropped by $133,000, or nearly 20 percent.


Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.