Philadelphia's performing arts industry goes virtual to survive pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The holiday season is the time of year when Philadelphia's performing arts kick into high gear, but since the pandemic, organizations have for the most part been shut down.

"We have furloughed, we have had a round of layoffs, we have a hiring freeze from the beginning at the office," said Karen Corbin, chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Pops.

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"The musicians and the staff made big sacrifices to their pay in order to make sure the orchestra can thrive on the other side of this," said Matias Tamopolsky, CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance says arts and culture brought in $4.1 billion annually to the five-county region's economy and provided 55,000 full-time jobs before the pandemic. But from March through September, the industry lost nearly $131 million.

For performers at The Wilma Theater, the personal impact has been terrible.

"I'm one of the many people right now that even though I've lost almost all of my income, I still haven't been able to secure an unemployment payment," said actress Campbell O'Hare.

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"The whole summer and thereafter was unemployment and it was scary and we suddenly have to pivot into doing a lot more digital work," said actor Justin Jain.

Most of the industry is now relying on digital virtual performances and donations in order to survive.

"We've had an increase in the number of donors giving to the orchestra," said Tamopolsky.
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