Englert Theatre introduces Frontline Responders Fund to give 600 free tickets to healthcare workers

At the end of August, the Englert Theatre announced their new Frontline Responders fund, which will provide 600 free tickets to healthcare workers who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Grace Kreber

Photo illustration by Grace Kreber.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

After nearly two and a half years of tirelessly fighting COVID-19, frontline responders are being met with a “thank you” from the Englert Theatre.

The theater’s Frontline Responders Fund, implemented on Aug. 31, will provide 600 free tickets for frontline responders to attend a variety of performances at the theater. Responders will have access to the tickets through various specific partnerships with the Englert, including UIHC, Mercy Hospital, and IT Integrated DNA Technologies. Individual requests for Frontline tickets can be made through program partners, but up to 4 tickets will be made available for each Englert Presents show.

At the heart of the fund is the notion that frontline responders, particularly health care workers, worked every day, sometimes risked their lives or the lives of their families to help care for patients with COVID-19.

Englert Theatre Executive Director John Schickedanz wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the Englert will help frontline responders with their mental health following these grueling years of a public health crisis.

“Just as frontline responders have played a critical role in physically healing us throughout the pandemic, we know that the arts can have an enormous effect on mental health and healing,” he wrote. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer frontline responders an opportunity to find respite through art.”

Schickedanz noted he is particularly in awe of the renowned medical professionals that work in the Iowa City area, so giving them a night free of charge to watch the “equally renowned” performers that come through the Englert is the perfect offering to give back.

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The idea for the fund came from Roman Terrill, a member of the Englert Fellowship for the Future, who met with the Englert back in February to discuss a way to give back to frontline responders. Schickedanz wrote that it took months of organizing and reworking the idea to come to what it is now.

Terrill funded the 600 free tickets, and said he is excited to see the fund finally open to the public and for health care workers to get the recognition they deserve.

“It seems like 10 years ago now, but it was only a few years ago when people were applauding doctors on their way to the hospital,” Terrill said. “For me, it was important to kind of recall that and to, in some way, kind of have a more durable reminder of the sacrifices that those people made.”

Englert Development Director Katie Roche oversaw the implementation for the project. She wrote in an email to the DI that she was in awe of Terrill’s idea, and thought it was a great way to recognize health care workers.

“I thought that Roman’s idea was such a simple way to show gratitude and provide something to our health care heroes,” Roche wrote. “His generosity and creativeness is a real gift to the Englert and our community.”

She said it took about four months for the project to come together, including organizing with the Englert’s partners, implementing a new ticketing software, and dealing with understaffing and overburdened workloads — an issue that many arts organizations are facing.

The Englert is especially encouraging local health care workers, such as employers of Mercy Hospital, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and IDT Integrated DNA Technologies, Roche said. With the fund newly off the ground, she said she expects tickets to start being claimed soon.

“There is a lot of excitement from our partners about being able to provide tickets to their employees,” Roche wrote. “We should really see tickets starting to get distributed and even used in the next couple of weeks.”