Denver Actors Fund Helps the City's Theater Community Through Hard Times
A scene from last year's edition of Miscast, one of the Denver Actors Fund's annual fundraisers.
For the twelve years John Moore was a theater critic for the Denver Post, the journalist kept finding himself wanting to do more within the creative community he was covering. Moore had become well-acquainted with the players in the scene and, as a result, he'd learned just how many of them were facing challenges both financially and emotionally. He heard stories about about medical emergencies, illnesses and the loss of loved ones over and over again. "You're constantly hearing about someone who has had something terrible happen to them in their lives and they have no insurance and may be facing $75,000 in medical bills," Moore recalls. "What I would do when I was at the Post was just try to let people know that someone needed help — if there was a benefit being hosted or something, all I could do ethically as a journalist was just be the messenger."
In 2011, Moore was offered a buyout from the Post. He took it, seeing it as an opportunity to get more involved with the scene that he had become invested in over the last decade. "Not being at the Post actually allowed me to take one step closer to being a part of the theater community," says Moore. "I think I was in a unique position to sort of organize on a more official basis — [I had] the opportunity to help people in trouble."
He began brainstorming with others in the theater scene on how to help the performers and people he cared so much about — and in 2013, the Denver Actors Fund was born. Celebrating two years of operation in June, the grassroots non-profit has been raising money through performance-based fundraisers — which to date have raised more than $47,000 that has gone to those in need. Although the organization is called the Denver Actors Fund, anyone who has had their names in a show program at a local theater — stage managers, directors, playwrights — is eligible for aid.
"These are people who we think of as our local celebrities; they appear on stages like Curious Theatre and at the Denver Center," says Moore. "We think, man, they must live such exotic, charmed lives. But this isn't L.A. or New York — many of these people are barely getting paid gas money for the privilege to perform for audiences. I don't think a lot of people know that even before Obamacare, these are the people who would most likely not have insurance. They are having to work jobs that are flexible with their schedules and allow them to take weekends off for six weeks to perform in a play. They tend to not have stable jobs at companies with benefits."
How the Denver Actors Fund works is simple: There's a short form on the non-profit's website that anyone in the community can fill out. From there, Moore promises a 72-hour response for requests for financial support and a 24-hour response for other requests for aid. The Denver Actors Fund also has a transportation team for anyone who needs a ride to a doctor's appointment; there's also a team that provides meals, a team for childcare — even a team for pet- care needs. The idea was to create a good neighbors' program of sorts that could respond quickly to the needs of community members, Moore explains.
The Denver Actors Fund has helped defray the cost of life-saving surgeries, provided meals and emotional support for actors who have lost loved ones, and assisted with rent, childcare and other daily expenses for countless people in the theater community. "The thing that has been most remarkable about the organic nature of how this has happened is the people who have benefited from it," says Moore. "As a journalist, with every situation that comes up, I think, 'Wow. Every single one of these is a story.'"
And the story goes on: This Monday, September 14, the Denver Actors Fund will put on the variety show Miscast, a benefit for the organization, at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center. This popular theater tradition brings together actors in theatrical roles that could only exist in a parallel universe as they perform classic scenes, but with gender-bending, age-defying and racy, humorous twists. Tickets are $10 (additional fees apply if purchased online). For more information on the show and participating actors, or to purchase tickets, visit the venue's website; for more on the Denver Actors Fund, visit the non-profit's website.
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