Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) attends reopening night of 'Dear Evan Hansen.' (Photo: Rebecca J. Michelson)

In 2021, Senator Chuck Schumer worked behind the scenes in Washington and on the stages in New York to help support and then sell Broadway’s reopening.

Schumer pushed for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program until it was included in the stimulus bill passed by Congress in December 2020. He continued to fight for additional funding, which was included in the stimulus passed this March.

These $10 million grants helped theater owners, productions and theater offices reopen and then support the cost of COVID-19 testing and supplies. It may help sustain some shows through canceled performances. 

Because of his aid to the theater community, the Broadway Briefing, the industry newsletter owned by the publisher of Broadway News, selected Schumer as the 2021 Broadway Showperson of the Year. This honor is presented to “the person or persons who most influenced Broadway this year.”

In the Briefing, Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters, wrote about Schumer’s impact: 

An unprecedented year brings an unprecedented Showperson of the Year. With all our stages dark for so very long, the person who most influenced Broadway is not a showperson at all. His profound impact was felt not through work on the stage, but through work that brought all of us back to the stage. Simply put, there would be no Broadway this year without Senator Chuck Schumer.

As the scope of the shutdown’s devastation started to become clear, the senator realized that New York would never return without Broadway and that Broadway would never return without major help. So he set about the arduous task of securing that help — and from a federal government that had never meaningfully supported our industry. In the process, he widened the lens to include not just Broadway and Broadway touring, but also live venues across the country, as well as music festivals, event promoters, talent agencies and production service companies. In other words, much of the live event ecosystem of the United States.

Why? Because Chuck Schumer knows that the beating hearts of New York City and of every city and town are its stages. The spaces that convene us as a community, that lift us to our highest selves. The hundreds of thousands of jobs needed to create those transcendent experiences and the many more that create the experiences around the experiences — the restaurants, hotels, stores and more that thrive because of the beacon that is a stage.
Chuck Schumer knew that all of that — all of us, really — was worth saving. So for months he could be seen with the plea “Save Our Stages” literally written across his face(mask). The result of his passionate advocacy and dogged pursuit was an astounding $16 billion dollars in SVOG grants for the live events industries across the country.

But that’s not the end of the Hero Schumer story. It turns out that getting a bill passed is just the beginning of a rescue effort. The senator stayed with us through the complicated process of distributing these funds, personally attending to all the many major and minor challenges that emerged until every eligible show, theater and company had what it needed to return to life and bring its teams back to work.

And the senator didn’t stop there either. When the Broadway he so passionately resuscitated started to emerge, he was there with us too. Biking to the St. James with David Byrne, welcoming the first audience of “Caroline, or Change,” cheering for the winners at the Tony Awards, and sporting Evan Hansen’s blue polo at their recent reopening. So maybe he is a showperson after all! Next year…”Schumer: The Musical!”