‘Forging Ahead’ Campaign

Help Live Arts be a source of connection during Charlottesville’s recovery

$124,000 raised for the Forging Ahead Campaign!


We invite you to help Live Arts recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19 and be a source of personal connection in this time of physical isolation.

For 29 years, Live Arts has been a force for bringing the community together in good times and in bad. Today is no different. As we head into our 30th anniversary season, we ask you to be a part of bringing Charlottesville together in a post COVID-19 world. Through creative expression. Through meaning-making. Though volunteer engagement. Together, we can restore the heart as well as the health of the community.

Please consider a meaningful gift to help our 1,200 volunteers launch our 30th anniversary season with provocative plays, exploratory workshops, youth camps, and the ties that bind a community together.

As artists, we view every challenge as an opportunity for creative expression. The world calls that innovation. We call it art. You make it all possible with your volunteer time and your financial gift.

Shifting from Response Mode to Re-Imagine Mode

As the race against the virus shifts from a sprint to a marathon, Live Arts is shifting our stride from response mode to re-imagine mode. This simple shift makes all the difference in our outlook for the future.

Here’s the short story on our race to re-invent ourselves as the rules governing life and live theater change before our eyes.

How COVID-19 impacted Live Arts

Let’s start with a quick recap on how COVID-19 impacted Live Arts.

In short, it hit us hard.

We lost almost $410,000 in earned income after cancelling or postponing shows, summer camps, our Fringe Festival tech contract, and education programs. We also lost budgeted income from space rentals, playbill advertising, sponsorships, cancelled fundraising events, and individual giving.

Causes of Income Gap Pie Chart

Seven-phase response to the crisis

Phase 1: We started by reducing expenses (including 15-20% salary reductions), finding new sources of earned income (namely online workshops), seeking grants, and asking patrons to donate their unused tickets. Almost 80% of you did–a testament to your great affection for Live Arts. This belt-tightening phase reduced our income gap by almost $160,000.

Phase 2: We launched a $250,000 Forging Ahead Campaign to close the remaining income gap. We raised $58,000 in the first five weeks and secured a $79,000 PPP forgivable loan from the SBA, which will cover staff salaries through June 30. We will apply to have the full amount forgiven in July.

Phase 3: We looked beyond financials to our role in forging personal connection in a time of physical isolation. On May 1, we launched a free, live-streamed theater retrospective called “30 Plays in 30 Days,” a month-long gift to the community. It’s Jeremy Pape’s brainchild and the result of heroic efforts on the parts of Liz Howard and Ray Nedzel.

Phase 4: We explored ways to increase earned revenue during our 30th anniversary season by expanding the number of productions, optimizing the number of subscriptions, and expanding the sponsorship program. Those plans are on hold until we know when we can open the season.

Phase 5: We embraced the Stockdale Paradox, which was named for Admiral Stockdale who spent seven years as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton. When he returned home, he was asked how he had survived when most of his colleagues had perished. Two things: He understood the brutal reality of his circumstances AND he had unwavering faith that he would survive. Those who didn’t make it were the optimists, who kept hoping that things would get better and died of a broken heart.

Modeling Stockdale’s advice, we mapped out an “Operations Options Plan.” It outlines a series of brutal outcomes triggered by possible pandemic events like when the curve will flatten. Those outcomes could kick in IF we do not change our operating model. The outcomes range from best case (we do online summer camps, a modified summer musical and a regular season) to worst case (we go dormant for part or all of the year). This gave us the clarity and the courage to change our operating model.

Phase 6: The board organized a Scenario Planning Taskforce to reimagine what the future might look like, using a process that stretches current thinking, challenges conventional wisdom, and leads to different outcomes. That taskforce is looking at everything from drive-in theater venues to radio plays to a broadcast season featuring local playwrights and original one-act plays.

Phase 7: The Taskforce is vetting the most promising ideas and running cashflow projections to make sure they are viable. Then we’ll start piloting the best of them, using a “rapid iteration” model favored by software engineers and entrepreneurs. Stay tuned for an update on our re-imagining process!

Unwavering faith in our survival

Like Admiral Stockdale, we understand the brutal reality of our situation AND have unwavering faith that we will persevere. As a scrappy, resourceful, wildly inventive arts organization, we are particularly well suited for this process of re-invention. WHY we exist won’t change: to forge theater and community. WHAT we do, and HOW we do it, will most certainly change—quite possibly for the better.

How you can help

None of us will get through this alone. So here are several things that you can do to help Live Arts be a source of connection during Charlottesville’s recovery:


  • Consider making an extra gift by June 30 to help up close our income gap
  • Donate your unused tickets


  • Take an online workshop
  • Sign up your kids for Live Arts’ online summer camps
  • Reach out to someone who is isolated in our community
  • Share a favorite Live Arts memory at #SpreadLiveArtsLove to inspire others to connect
  • Create a how-to video as part of “Life Arts” at Live Arts
  • Advocate on behalf of the arts with policy makers and funders


Our building is closed to the public, but our staff is still working hard at home. 

Most of our staff is working remotely in compliance with Governor Northam’s temporary stay-at-home order. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, concerns, suggestions, or just to check in! We miss seeing your faces in the theater each day, and we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email.