Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

'Save our theatre': family business fears permanent shutdown due to coronavirus

Performing arts training centre The Courtyard Playhouse put out a call requesting support from the local community

Members of The Courtyard Playhouse, a Dubai-based theatre company. Courtesy The Courtyard Playhouse
Members of The Courtyard Playhouse, a Dubai-based theatre company. Courtesy The Courtyard Playhouse

As local events, workshops and classes are cancelled or postponed to contain the spread of Covid-19, small businesses are feeling the pinch.

One such local, family-owned business in the Dubai is The Courtyard Playhouse, a KHDA-licensed performing arts training centre and improv theatre. Like many training institutions, the business temporarily ceased operations earlier this month, with the aim to open doors again on Saturday, April 4. However, with that date facing possible extension, the company now fears that the temporary shutdown could translate to a permanent one.

“We live based on the bookings we have every month,” says owner and founder Kemsley Dickinson. “There are no bookings now, for the foreseeable future.”

On Thursday, March 12, The Courtyard Playhouse put out a post on social media, explaining the situation. “As a family business with overheads and staff to pay, being closed for this long with no income, and not knowing how much longer we might be closed for, it completely unsustainable. It is with enormous sadness that we are facing permanent closure as a result,” the post reads.

The company usually makes its income through children and adult theatre workshops, corporate training and evening programmes. It is run by Dickinson and his wife Tiffany Schultz, who used their savings to start the theatre together in 2013.

“Over the last seven years, we have never taken a bank loan, haven’t taken pay rises (in fact quite the opposite) and shareholders have never taken dividends: we have always run our small business responsibly and from our own pocket for the community. We love the theatre and the people here, we just want to work,” adds Dickinson.

On Saturday, March 14, The Central Bank of the UAE rolled out a Dh100 billion economic stimulus package to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Dickinson adds that they are grateful for the stimulus package but they need to reach out for more to prevent closure. The theatre company is asking for support from the local community, encouraging members to visit their website and purchase products like customised sketches, embroidered beanbags, Polo t-shirts and plaques.

“We are here and we are fighting,” adds Dickinson. “But if our plea for help is not heeded, when the community comes back, there will be a furniture shop or a KFC where the theatre used to be.”

Updated: March 16, 2020 11:12 AM

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