Dubai community stands by crisis-hit theatre

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Dubai - At least four weeks of no revenue looked set to force The Courtyard Playhouse to go dark for good.

By David Light

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Published: Sun 15 Mar 2020, 10:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 16 Mar 2020, 2:10 PM

In an unprecedented show of community spirit, Al Quoz drama institution The Courtyard Playhouse is reeling from the kindness shown from around the UAE when it faced potential permanent closure as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
As with all training facilities, The Courtyard was asked by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) to temporarily lock its doors for a month on March 7 in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
At least four weeks of no revenue looked set to force the theatre to go dark for good until a rallying cry was put on the venue's website and people quickly responded. Since going live on Thursday, a cash for rewards scheme has attracted a truly monumental 25 per cent of the Dh386,000 required in order for the establishment to meet its financial obligations.
Set up seven years ago by former drama teacher Kemsley Dickinson and his wife Tiffany Schultz, The Courtyard Playhouse is a KHDA-licenced academy focusing on instructing in the art of improvisational theatre.
A total of 26 classes per week and various programmes culminate in performance pieces designed to provide the ultimate educational tool: audience feedback.
The establishment's half term holiday camps are consistently sold-out. But now, it has become the immediate victim of the shutdown.
"It was devastating for us, but also for the parents of the students who had to go to work and didn't have anything for their kids to do," said Kylie Kate Schultz, Courtyard Playhouse manager and Tiffany's sister.
The South African went on to describe the moment when the impact of what the enforced four-week closure and the resulting lack of income may mean sank in.
"We had to make decisions very quickly. Kem and Tiff are in South Africa, so we were on the phone all hours for about two days trying to figure out solutions.
"With a month of zero turnover and still having to pay our fixed expenses, we thought: can we ask for some leeway on the rent? Can we get a loan?"
The eventual answer - establishing an online money for rewards initiative - was presented by those in the theatre community already willing to help.
"They asked if we could get something up so they and their friends and family across the world could support us," Schultz said. "So that was the logical way for us to go."
Money will go towards paying the permanent staff and the property's lease among other expenses. Schultz has called the action taken 'astounding', though stressed the initiative is not merely charity. A tangible award awaits those who support.
"You forget how big a part of peoples' lives this place is. We've had some of our students offer their pocket money. Every cent counts and it is so heartwarming knowing people want to help and love us.
"For every amount that comes through we offer rewards like T-shirts or polo shirts. We have brass plaques on the back of our seats where you can have your name, custom sketches, custom crochet items. We are thinking of creative ways to give back for the funds we receive."
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