Rian Johnson, Christine Goerke Urge Congress to Support Relief for Performing Artists

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An empty Lincoln Center

The filmmaker and famous opera soprano are among nearly 16,000 people who have signed a petition urging Congress to extend unemployment benefits for thousands of stage, opera, film and TV workers.

Rian Johnson and opera star Christine Goerke recently celebrated their newfound friendship on Twitter after the filmmaker saw her sing at the Metropolitan Opera.  

Now the duo are among thousands who have signed a petition urging Congress to provide continued relief for thousands of performing artists who are out of work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The petition supports legislation that would would extend a $600-per-week boost in unemployment insurance to January 2021. The provision, which was part of the CARES Act, is presently set to expire July 31.

As of May 15, nearly 16,000 had signed the Change.org petition. The petition was launched a week before by Metropolitan Opera stage manager Theresa Ganley and executive stage director Paula Suozzi as a way to support performing arts workers.

“The performing arts industry has been devastated by the coronavirus. It is likely that the time when we can resume work and audiences can gather again with a sense of safety will be many months from now. Most of us who work in this industry were in the first wave of American workers to be laid off and will likely be the last to be phased back in," Ganley and Suozzi wrote in the petition. "We ask you to remember that the artists, craftspeople and technicians who are suffering irrevocable hardship have been members of an industry that has been an 800 billion dollar part of the nation’s economy."

Broadway theaters are now expected to remain dark through at least through Sept. 6, while the Metropolitan Opera has yet to announce its plans for the 2020-2021 season. The fate of TV and movie productions is also unclear, leaving thousands out of work and reliant on unemployment.

Anthony Laciura, who sang for the Met for years and was later tapped by Martin Scorsese for a role on Boardwalk Empire, says unemployment benefits are key for numerous workers in the entertainment business who don't have other financial resources.

"The last thing that will be able to function is musical theater, opera or any of the live arts," Laciura tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The young people who can't get Social Security need to be able to survive."