Helfaer Theatre lit up red for project Red Alert Restart

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Photo by Joceline Helmbrek

The Helfaer Theatre was lit up red in support of the RESTART Act.

Entertainment venues across the United States, including Marquette’s Helfaer Theatre, participated in Red Alert Restart, which involved lighting up event grounds in the color red to urge Congress to pass the RESTART Act in order to assist the live venue entertainment industry which has been damaged financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Milwaukee entertainment venues were lit up last Tuesday, including Fiserv Forum and Henry Maier Festival Park.

The Reviving the Economy Sustainability Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty Act is a proposed bill that would establish protection for small businesses that took on financial burdens due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would provide loans to businesses with less than 500 full-time employees or ones that suffered a 25% decrease in revenues due to the pandemic.

Marquette theater will not be having in-person performances this year and will only be able to perform virtually.

Red Alert Restart is also pushing the continuation and expansion of unemployment benefits given through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

“After researching and discussing, it was agreed that the two most important paths, short of a cure and the resumption of regular event activities, were through getting support for pending legislation called the RESTART Act,” Robyn Schultz, regional director-MKE of Red Alert Restart, said.

Schultz said that Red Alert Restart is composed of entertainment industry professionals who are struggling and that those struggles can be addressed through the proper legislation. Lighting venues up red can raise awareness for these issues and urge Congress to pass RESTART. It was last introduced to the Senate in June.

Of the 12 million employees in the live events industry, 77% have lost their income because of cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic according to the We Make Events website.

The live events industry is reportedly worth more than $35 billion, and after the pandemic, most of that profit was lost, according to an article from Lighting and Sound America, which is a magazine centered around technology and lighting in the entertainment industry.

Schultz initially reached out to Chester Loeffler-Bell, Artistic Assistant Professor of Performing Arts, to see if he was considered getting involved in the event. Loeffler-Bell agreed to participate.

“It is important for students to be proactive with informing others of the importance of the arts,” Loeffler-Bell said. “The arts are an important part of the engine of America’s economy and overall well being.”

Maaz Ahmed, a junior in the College of Communication, felt the need to get involved since he wants to be a part of the theater industry after graduation.

“I’ve seen so many of my friends and colleagues struggling because we can’t find work right now,” Ahmed said. “I’m privileged to still have a safety net and have the opportunity to stay in school, but my peers need the support.”

Before the pandemic, Ahmed was planning on doing a live theater internship at Creede Repertory Theatre in Creed, Colorado, but when COVID-19 hit, that was put on hold.

“The primary intention is to raise awareness for the plight of the industry, and the people who work in it which serve as the lifeblood,” Schultz said. “If people think about what they miss doing in groups, …. it is our hope they will recognize that those activities do not happen without hard work, expensive equipment and carefully integrated teams to bring it all together.”

Schultz encourages anyone who wishes to get involved to go the We Make Events website to fill out a message they can send to their representatives to urge the passing of the RESTART Act.

This story was written by Benjamin Wells. He can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu