At the beginning of April, Scenekunstbruket sent out a simple survey to the performing arts field, mainly related to our repertoire. At this point, all tours in The Cultural Rucksack and other arenas had been canceled until Easter.  

- It is important for us to follow up these performing arts companies that, like so many others, have experienced an abrupt halt in their activities. With this survey, we wanted to get a picture of how the companies are affected by canceled tours and assignments. And what we have received so far shows a great deal of concern for the future of the performing arts," says Ådne Sekkelsten, CEO of Scenekunstbruket. 

Since schools closed and people were encouraged to work from home in mid-March, the situation in the performing arts field has changed continuously. Various schemes have gradually been put in place, changes have taken place, and what both the performing arts field and the audience needed in the beginning is not the same as what they need now. After September 1, the situation is different again. Although it's difficult to look far ahead, we recognize that it will take time to settle into an everyday life that feels final. 

72 respondents 

The questionnaire went out on April 1, and since then 72 productions have been registered in the survey, in addition to which we have spoken to and been in contact with several others. The vast majority have had the spring semester canceled, but others also report canceled performances in the fall, especially at foreign festivals and venues. The companies have had anything from 1 to as many as 70 performances canceled. In addition to performances and tours, rehearsals, auditions and production periods have been canceled or postponed.  

Fees, postponement of tour and force majeure 

The Cultural Rucksack in the counties has covered fees for all signed contracts until Easter, and has the opportunity to do so for tours throughout the school year. Many other organizers do not have the means or opportunity to do this. Before Easter, as many as 21% responded that they would not have their fees covered. This applies to both performances and other types of assignments.  

Ripple effects 

The companies are worried about the way forward, especially those that were going to show brand new productions at festivals, markets and to test audiences. When other companies have their contracts postponed, it means that it takes even longer before new productions can be booked. At the moment, no one is allowed to audition, and the permanent staff at the institutional theaters have been laid off. Many in the independent field divide their time between assignments in the institutions and their own companies to ensure a viable income.  

Mathias Augestad Ambjør from Feil Teater says: "Until now, fees for canceled tours have been paid, but I'm afraid that performing artists will suffer from few jobs and little to no income for a long time to come. In addition, potential employers are planning very far ahead, and right now no one dares to hire at all. This will create major ripple effects - perhaps especially for those of us who make a living working partly in the independent field and partly in institutions. 

"Some companies have had their tours postponed, so they know that they are guaranteed income in the future, but this makes it difficult to plan financially. Teater Joker writes that there are very different practices among the organizers, and most try to move the date of the performance. The challenge with this is that these are assignments that are budgeted for in the current period.  

- Hitting the free field hard

- The company was actively selling the production to festivals and theatres around the country, but those conversations are completely dead now. Nor is there any point in contacting theaters about co-production of new shows any time soon, as the pandemic is hitting theaters' finances hard, and collaborations with independent groups and guest performances are largely "extra activity". After the crisis, theaters are likely to struggle financially, and the activity they can afford to continue will necessarily be the production of their own works, with the greatest possible use of internal resources at the houses. This will hit the independent field hard. 

by Proxy is a company that was due to show its performance at the Market for Performing Arts just after Easter. However, the postponement means that it will take longer before the performance can be bought for new commissions, which in turn means a long period without the prospect of touring and pay. 

What will the job market and cultural life look like in five years?

Uncertainty about the autumn and the way forward worries many. Rimfrost Productions won the Hedda Award for Best Children's Performance in 2018 and will be touring this fall with the new production Monster i magen, a collaboration with Brageteatret. Like many others, the company is worried about the long-term consequences: "Can we play the planned performances this fall? Will the new production in 2021 go ahead? Will this have such a negative impact on the institutional theatres, support schemes, the Norwegian Actors' and Dancers' Alliance, the Ministry of Culture and the government that our job and production opportunities will be weakened for several years to come? What will the labor market and cultural life look like in five years? There is no doubt that this period will change structures, so how can we secure our jobs and continue to produce performing arts in this new era? 

Missing the audience

In addition to the financial uncertainties, many mention that they feel sad about not being able to meet the public.  

- "We were really looking forward to the tour because we were going to meet and perform for young people. We feel that the performance is important for the target group. I'm a firm believer that art is important and can help to change and affirm people, says Katja Brita Lindeberg. 

It's not just performers who are affected 

Many people in the performing arts field are freelancers and self-employed who are not linked to a permanent company. We've received feedback from directors, puppeteers and technicians, among others, who are now completely without work. They often receive a fee after the premiere. The companies feel a great deal of responsibility for those they work with and hire, and are worried about their future too.

Important to see the field as a whole

It's now the beginning of May, and several solutions for both freelancers and the self-employed in general, and the art field in particular, have been put in place, but there is still a lot that remains unclear. The performing arts field, like several other art fields, has long planning horizons, and Scenekunstbruket will continue to follow up on the consequences of the restrictions, both for the individual artists and companies, the audience and for the field as a whole. "A field that, by and large, is without permanent public funding is hit very hard. Together with several stakeholders, we are working to carry out a larger, overall survey of the performing arts field.

Photo: Monster in the belly - Rimfrost productions. Photographer: Signe Fuglested Luksengard

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Performing arts industry with extraordinary grant scheme in SPENN

In connection with the pandemic and the serious impact the infection control measures have on the field of performing arts, Scenekunstbruket is establishing an extraordinary grant scheme for the organization of performances for children and young people. Application deadline May 25. Read more here.