Photography by Kathy Tran

First, Shakespeare Dallas canceled its summer season. Then its fall season. Then its winter season.

“It’s all been in phases because I’m an eternal optimist,” says Raphael Parry, executive and artistic director of the nonprofit that performs Shakespeare at Samuell Grand Park. “Next summer launches our 50th season. We have all these ideas, but it depends on COVID.”

Following the cancelation of its in-person programs, Shakespeare Dallas lost all of its earned income and reduced its $1 million budget by 25 percent. The organization released its contractors but managed to keep all seven full-time staff members.

“Instead of programming, I’m spending most of my time fundraising,” Parry says. “We have to monitor expenses so tightly. We’re cutting down on office supplies. Don’t use so many paper clips because it will add up. The last thing I want to do is lay off or furlough any staff.”

Parry worries about what will happen if Congress doesn’t pass another coronavirus relief package. The organization received a Paycheck Protection Program loan that paid staff salaries for two months. Without it, “everybody would be gone,” Parry says.

“There are byproducts of income that we generate that are ignored,” he says. “When you go to a show, you go out to eat at a restaurant beforehand, and then you go to a bar after and have a cocktail while talking about the show. We’re an important part of the economy.”

The outlook may not be much brighter in the upcoming fiscal year. In the face of donor fatigue and an unemployment tax that will most certainly be higher for businesses, Shakespeare Dallas needs continued community support to survive.

In lieu of a Shakespearean play, neighbors can buy tickets to Shakespeare Dallas’ Movies in the Park series at Samuell Grand amphitheater. Each movie night follows a different theme: Thursdays feature Shakespeare-inspired movies, Fridays feature classics and Saturdays are reserved for family favorites.

The park, which normally holds 1,000 people, is limited to 200 occupants who must sit in groups of two or four in seating pods painted on the lawn.

Shakespeare Dallas also rolled out a slew of online programs. More than 3,000 people subscribed to its first virtual offering, Will on the Web, and the success prompted the nonprofit to devise ways of filming programs and releasing them in schools.

It received a Shakespeare in American Communities grant to provide low-income schools in Dallas, Garland and Mesquite with free programming. One of the films includes an abridged version of “Romeo and Juliet” that shows students how actors and directors rehearse a play. Filming takes place in a studio with a limited number of cast and crew. Everyone wears a mask, which can only be removed by actors during filming.

“Without [art] our whole lives would be bleaker,” Parry says. “You can only get so much from Netflix. I want to experience a cultural event with other people.”

HOW TO HELP SAVE THE DALLAS ARTS SCENE:

  • Shop from local vendors and artists.
  • Give art with a gift card.
  • Participate in programs online.
  • Be honest. If three people are participating in a virtual program on one computer, buy three tickets.
  • If you’re able, donate to arts organizations and nonprofits. Even small gifts make a difference.
  • Share art, resources and fundraisers on your social media platforms.

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