Back in April, in the early weeks of the theatrical shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Playbill reported on the stichers and costume shops and wardrobe departments across the country that began sewing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and medical gowns in an attempt to make up for the shortage frontline healthcare workers were experiencing.
Midtown’s Open Jar Studios converted to a warehouse, assembling and disseminating kits to sewers to make medical gowns and then collecting and distributing those supplies to professionals in need. The effort was coordinated through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. Not only did the initiative create and supply necessary PPE, it also employed out-of-work seamstresses who lost work when their theatres closed.
“Part of the goal is to create jobs for as many people as we can that are out of work,” Jeff Whiting, Open Jar’s owner, told Playbill at the time.
The project produced 51,000 medical gowns and created over 400 jobs for the Broadway community, including jobs for 231 stitchers. Still, the generosity continues as many of these employees chose to donate their pay to The Actors Fund. The Broadway Relief Project donated $32,948 to the organization that supports professionals across entertainment, who are in dire need at this time. The Actors Fund is a national service organization which provides emergency services including financial assistance, affordable housing, health care and counseling for the entertainment community.
Actor Javier Muñoz and the Broadway Green Alliance, which sources material, were instrumental in the success of the project, as well as RoseBrand (which makes most of the show curtains for Broadway) and PRG (that builds automation and supplies for most every show).
“It was just so nice to be able to contribute something during this crisis,” said Whiting in a statement. “In fact, the Studios never really closed down. Overnight, we became an essential business as we transformed our Broadway rehearsal space into a gown factory.”