In the wake of disaster, Broadway still cares — and so do theatre people and audiences around the country.
More than a week after the deadly terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the companies of Broadway, Off-Broadway, touring and regional theatre shows are engaged in or organizing efforts to aid victims of the terrorists. Donation boxes are being placed in lobbies. Curtain speeches are being made. Actors in costume stand in the aisles with buckets for collections.
Even as it has its hands full with year-round fundraising for those affected by HIV, AIDS and other health issues, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS donated $50,000 in recent days to the Twin Towers Fund, which helps emergency services workers and their families. The money was given in memory of the firefighters lost from Battalion #9, "The Broadway Firehouse," located on 48th Street and Eighth Avenue.
The visible theatre-district firefighters were some of the first to report for duty when the World Trade Center was attacked Sept. 11. The battalion lost 14 members that morning. If you would like to match or add funds to this donation, please call (212) 840-0770.
Michael Graziano of BC/EFA said the organization wanted to make itself available as one of the options for directing money raised by the professional Equity community. "This particular fund, for us, seemed the most direct connection to the heart of Broadway," Graziano told Playbill On-Line. Individual companies in New York and on the road are deciding if and how to help raise money. The Full Monty cast in Chicago, for example, is asking for money for the American Red Cross, while Guys and Dolls on the road is giving any money raised to BC/EFA, which then earmarks the donation to the Twin Towers Fund.
"We put out a call for the companies to do whatever they felt appropriate," Graziano said.
BC/EFA's effort is one of many initiatives large and small by theatre communities around the country. In the past week, theatres, organizations and audiences rose to new heights of spirit and generosity by passing the hat or making a plan. Here are some, but not all, of the efforts:
• At St. Louis Repertory Theatre, post-show donations at Gypsy, are going to the American Red Cross — $2,300 was raised on Sept. 12,and $9,000 during Sept. 12-16. "I personally felt that it was important that we acknowledge the national events and take the opportunity of so many people coming together — to do something to help," said cast member Joan Hess.
• The company of James Joyce's The Dead at the Huntington Theatre in Boston (which opened Sept. 12) raised more than $10,0000 for five shows, to send to the American Red Cross.
• At Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, MI, money raised during the number called "Tips" in Pump Boys and Dinettes will go to the Red Cross. The same is true of a Pump Boys staging at the Hollywood Playhouse in Hollywood, FL.
• Cast members of Broadway's Aida at the Palace Theatre collected money for The American Red Cross and The Twin Towers Fund.
• Generous audience members at seven performances of The Lion King in Los Angeles donated over $36,000 (Sept. 12-Sept. 16) for The American Red Cross. The Broadway Lion King troupe also collected money.
• Funds were collected for the Red Cross at Broadway's Beauty and the Beast.
• Cast members of Stomp at the Orpheum Theatre in the East Village in Manhattan asked for a donation for the local fire department.
• The Broadway company of Chicago has rallied to help the relief efforts of the families of firefighters killed and injured in the World Trade Center disaster by collecting money at every performance since the show resumed performances at the Shubert Theater Sept. 13. On Sept. 17, the company presented the first installment of its collection (about $12,000) to their local fire station at Eighth Avenue and 48th Street. The collections at the show will continue.
• A portion of proceeds from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' 15th Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction Sept. 30 in Shubert Alley and 44th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), 10 AM-7 PM, will go to the Twin Towers Fund and The American Red Cross.
• The company of Roundabout Theatre Company's Blue at the Gramercy Theatre has collected money for the Twin Towers Fund.
• Feld Entertainment, which owns all "Disney on Ice" shows and both units of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus, is donating a portion of all proceeds of current shows to the American Red Cross.
• Starting with its first public performance Sept. 14, Forbidden Broadway has used the BC/EFA format of a curtain speech to raise money for the Twin Towers fund.
• Theatre Arlington's production of the Neil Simon-Marvin Hamlisch musical, The Goodbye Girl, in Texas, held a candlelight vigil before the opening night performance Sept. 14. Funds are being raised nightly in the lobby after each performance, and several corporations are going to match what Theatre Arlington's cast raises to double and triple the amount earmarked for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. This message is posted in the lobby: "We offer this show as a valentine to New York City, show biz and hopeless romantics. ...We celebrate New York City for its vibrancy before the tragedy and their commitment to the growth beyond."
• The first national tour of Contact began raising money last week while the show was in Salt Lake City, UT, according to a Playbill reader close to the show. Funds have reached $16,000 so far.
• Walnut Street Theater's production of the new musical Camilla has raised over $17,000 in post-performance donations.
• In Chicago, the League of Chicago Theatres has encouraged its members to help raise funds for the American Red Cross. Local companies were given ideas how to raise money for relief.
• In Pittsburgh, 10 Pittsburgh-area arts organizations will be collecting donations for victims of the terrorist attacks: City Theatre, Mattress Factory, The Andy Warhol Museum, Wood Street Galleries, Byham Theatre, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Black Sheep Puppet Festival, River City Brass Band, Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance released this statement: "As an arts community, we have decided that our most proactive and empowering contribution is our art. We bring the arts to your life and we provide a space where you can be with others in your community. We believe that the arts are re energizing, revitalizing, transforming, and life-affirming. This weekend, in the spirit of prayer and remembrance called for by President Bush, we have resolved to present our exhibits, open our shows, and raise our curtains. We may make changes to our event formats, or have special comment periods, but our doors will be open. To make it easier for you to make your contribution, we will have American Red Cross Victim Relief donation boxes in our lobbies and galleries."
• Broadway/San Diego will contribute a portion of ticket sales for Mandy Patinkin in Concert, playing Sept. 22 at the Civic Theatre, to the American Red Cross — National Disaster Relief Fund. For every 'A Section' ticket sold, $15 will be donated; for every 'B' or 'C Section' ticket sold, $10 will be donated beginning Sept. 18 at the Concourse box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Call the Concourse Box Office at (619) 570-1100 or Ticketmaster at (619) 220-TIXS to purchase tickets, and mention the American Red Cross when purchasing tickets.
If you know of a theatre company that is working toward raising money toward relief for the victims of the terrorist attacks in the U.S., let Playbill On-Line know by clicking here.
— By Kenneth Jones