Theatre administrators across Northern Ireland are to join together in a video conferencing call on Friday afternoon after a top arts official warned the province is in danger of becoming a cultural wasteland in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
The Zoom meeting will discuss the call from Jimmy Fay, the executive producer at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, for the setting up of what he called a "cultural taskforce" to launch a concerted drive to save the arts sector in the province.
He said: "I think we must form a proactive cross-body taskforce with cultural leaders, politicians, business leaders and arts commentators.
"We need people who are passionate about the arts to give a visibility about where we are at in the arts community.
"We have to come together to formulate a strategy and a recovery plan to bring all our theatres and venues back to life.
"That's why I have invited other theatre officials to get together with me in today's video conferencing call, in which we can talk through our shared problems and hopefully come up with solutions."
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the curtain down on every theatre and arts venue in Northern Ireland, where the industry was struggling to keep its head above water even before the virus struck, and there are real fears that some of them will never reopen.
The biggest players on the arts scene in Northern Ireland - the Lyric, Grand Opera House and Ulster Orchestra - have all expressed concern for the future.
At the Lyric, production teams have carried out a study of how the theatre could reopen with social distancing measures, but they've established that only 38 people could be safely housed in the 400-seater main auditorium.
"It's a very interesting concept, but even at a stretch there could maybe only be 60 people in the audience if some of them were from the same families," explained Mr Fay.
"That number of people would not be enough to pay the bills. We need 200-plus.
"We rely on about 70% of our funding coming from the audience."
Mr Fay said other venues like the MAC and the Crescent in Belfast, the Market Place in Armagh, the Millennium Forum and the Playhouse in Londonderry were similarly dependent on audience revenue to keep them afloat in tandem with financial support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI).
On Wednesday, representatives from the ACNI, the main funders of the creative industries here, told a committee from Stormont's Department for Communities (DfC) that arts organisations were facing a catastrophe and needed financial support.
ACNI chief executive Roisin McDonough, who along with three colleagues spoke to committee members at Stormont by phone, said yesterday: "£25m of earned income that comes through the box office to our arts organisations is going to be wiped out in one fell swoop.
"There will be up of £4m of debt incurred by them in the coming year."
But it's not just theatres and other venues that are suffering. Many of them have been able to furlough administrative staff, but actors, technicians, set designers, stage managers, make-up artists and other behind-the-scenes workers operate on a freelance basis and have lost all of their income.
Many of them have also been unable to avail of government benefits because they do not qualify for them.
An emergency fund set up by the ACNI and DfC at the end of April to help freelance workers shut down quickly afterwards because of the huge demand for the £500,000 on offer.
Last month the ACNI announced it was making upfront payments of 50% of annual funding to 97 key arts organisations in a bid to stabilise them to withstand the coronavirus emergency. The money is normally paid out in four instalments through the year.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey set aside an extra £1.5m to help arts organisations and artists, and while the move was welcome, experts said it was not enough.
Damian Smyth, the head of literature and drama at the ACNI, said: "We appreciate that everyone is under pressure due to coronavirus, but the arts sector is also crucially important to us all and a cash injection is a necessity.
"We are keeping in touch with our arts organisations to see what they think might happen in two or three months' time and to anticipate where there might be big problems for them."
Although there have been warnings that some organisations might not survive the crisis, there's a discernible unity of determination in the sector that many of them will get back to business as soon as the worst of the pandemic passes.
But none of them are saying it will be easy.
It's acknowledged that another reality in a post-Covid world without a vaccine would be trying to give audiences enough confidence to return to the confined spaces of a theatre even with social distancing.
Jimmy Fay insisted he wasn't saying the Government had done a bad job, but he also stressed that more investment was essential in the arts to keep the sector going. He suggested the establishment of a new hardship fund for freelancers, along with more stabilisation financing for venues.
He also said it was hoped that the furlough scheme for staff from his and other arts organisations would be extended past October if it was required.
At the Grand Opera House in Belfast, the cast and crew of Northern Ireland's biggest pantomime are waiting anxiously for news about whether or not their show will go ahead this year.
The theatre closed before the pandemic to allow a massive £12.2m restoration and refurbishment programme to be completed.
The work halted, however, for eight weeks in line with government guidelines, but construction teams moved back into the Opera House two weeks ago, though social distancing measures have restricted the progress of the work.
It's also understood that expert craftsmen who were due to undertake specialist work on the historic theatre haven't been able to return to Northern Ireland from their bases on the continent and further afield.
Upwards of 40,000 seats have already been sold for the production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, starring May McFettridge, aka John Linehan, and Paddy Jenkins.
But even if work on the Opera House can be completed, it's not certain how social distancing measures would impact on the size of the audiences.
Grand Opera House chief executive Ian Wilson isn't sure that social distancing could work at his theatre.
He said: "We will be having discussions with the contractors in the next couple of weeks and will make a decision about the reopening of the Opera House and the pantomime."
In the meantime, Mr Wilson said he was trying to reschedule no fewer than 11 visiting productions and that he was already looking at new dates as far in the future as 2024.
The Waterfront Hall is still advertising a full range of shows, including the pantomime Cinderella, which is due to open in November.
Many arts practitioners have improvised on social media to keep some form of entertainment alive.
The Lyric Theatre has commissioned a series of six short plays, to be streamed online, by leading writers including Owen McCafferty, David Ireland and Lisa McGee, the writer of the hit TV series Derry Girls.
"We don't want to let theatre just drift away," said Mr Fay. "There has to be a way to bring theatre to people to keep it alive."
The BBC has also been exploring ways of bringing back popular shows to its studios without audiences instead of using Zoom technology.
However, the prospect of social distancing in the future is taxing the minds of producers in television and in theatres.
One insider said: "How could you possibly have rehearsals for plays on a social distanced scale? And what about the actual performances on stage, where characters are by the very nature of theatre up close and personal with each other?
"And in a pantomime setting, how could you have any of the usual choreography when the dancers have to stay two metres apart?
"Then there are the difficulties associated with small dressing rooms and tiny backstage areas. It could all be a nightmare."