In every theatre, there's an electricity shared between audience and cast. Twice a year this magic extends beyond the footlights for a few extra minutes as cast members of participating shows step forward after their curtain calls to talk about Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
As they exit the show, audience members are greeted by cast members holding Broadway Cares' famous red buckets. In filling those buckets with ones, tens and twenties, theatregoers help Broadway Cares maintain a safety net of social services for those struggling with AIDS and other serious health issues.
"Last year, our six-week audience appeals period — held both in the fall and spring — raised an astounding two-thirds of the more than $9.3 million distributed by Broadway Cares," explains BC/EFA executive director Tom Viola. That money goes "to more than 500 AIDS and family service organizations around the country and the vital programs of The Actors Fund — the employee assistance program of the entertainment industry — including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.
"Each appeal is truly a company effort. Hundreds of talented and generous theatre professionals — including theatre owners, producers, stage managers, crew members, musicians, wardrobe, hair personnel, house managers, ushers and, of course, the actors — make this vital fundraising possible." In addition to the appeals, shows invent other creative ways to raise money, including auctioning off autographed posters, Playbills and other items unique to each production.
Some of the big-ticket items come courtesy of Broadway's biggest stars. During last season's A Little Night Music, current Follies star Bernadette Peters, a BC/EFA trustee, auctioned off the earrings she wore during that night's performance. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying star Daniel Radcliffe auctioned off his bowtie.
On Dec. 5-6, the theatre community will gather at the New Amsterdam Theatre for the 23rd Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition. The high-energy, vaudeville-esque revue celebrates the fundraising and all the other ways the community helps those facing serious personal challenges and health issues.
More than $85 million has been raised through audience appeals since the program's inception in 1991. One red bucket after another, show by show, season after season — all of it is made possible by the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of theatre professionals who know that "every dollar makes a difference" and by the generosity of audiences that are willing to prove them right.