COVID-19 Fundraiser Helps Theater Community

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has launched a special online fundraising campaign to create the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund.

This special fund, which launched March 17, 2020, and is administered by The Actors Fund, assists those in the entertainment community – onstage, backstage and behind the scenes – who are facing health care crises and other immediate needs in the wake of the evolving coronavirus pandemic.

With every passing day that theaters remain dark, those who work in the industry face unprecedented health and financial challenges requiring urgent attention and resources.

“When crises hit, the extended Broadway community and the theatre fans everywhere have always responded with generosity, compassion and action,” said Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares. “Buoyed by and on behalf of those onstage, backstage and throughout the theaters of New York City and on the road, we are proud to launch this emergency initiative in collaboration with The Actors Fund to provide immediate, basic support for those facing uncertainty in this unsettling pandemic.”

A week after the fund launched, more than 20 Broadway producers offered a $1 million challenge match to double the impact of donations to the fund. Once that initial match was met, another group of producers, inspired by the first, offered a second $1 million match.

This generosity is already being put to good work. Since the beginning of the pandemic, The Actors Fund has provided support to more than 8,500 performing arts and entertainment professionals. In the first weeks, The Actors Fund distributed more financial assistance than it normally does in a year.

This help includes insurance insurance assistance for a diabetic musician who lost all his gigs, food and rental assistance for actors with two young children and a third on the way, and temporary housing for a director to self-quarantine after learning she’d been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Since the campaign launched, Broadway Cares has sent nine wire transfers of $500,000 each to The Actors Fund, totaling $4.5 million so far. The transfers were made March 18, March 26, April 2, April 10, April 20, April 24, May 1, May 6 and May 13. As donations come in, additional transfers to The Actors Fund will continue to be made in $500,000 increments to ensure every dollar raised is being put to immediate use.

The producers who generously came together to offer the first $1 million challenge are Spencer Ross, Rebecca Gold Milikowsky, Elizabeth Armstrong, Bill Damaschke, Diana DiMenna, Jeanne Donovan Fisher, S. Asher Gelman, John Gore & Lauren Reid/The John Gore Organization, Louise Gund, Judi Krupp, Larry & Beth Lenke, Carmen Pavlovic & Gerry Ryan, Marc Platt, Daryl Roth, Jordan Roth, Scott Rudin, Jeffrey Seller, Jana Shea, Iris Smith, David Stone and Barbara Whitman. Lauren Reid, Jordan Roth and David Stone also serve on the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Board of Trustees.

The Broadway producers’ challenge was initiated by Ross who pledged $50,000 and began recruiting other producers to join him in each pledging $50,000 for the match. Milikowsky quickly followed suit and joined Ross to co-lead the recruitment effort. Armstrong was the first to sign on. In just a few days, they had 20 producers onboard collectively offering the $1 million pledge.

Inspired by the first $1 million match challenge, theatrical production company No Guarantees (Christine Schwarzman & Darren Johnston) kicked off the second match by reaching out to their collaborators to form a new group for a producers’ match. The producers offering the second match are The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation; Deborah Barrera/FireMused Productions; Adam Blanshay & André Desmarais; Jamie deRoy; Barry Diller, David Geffen & Scott Rudin; Amanda Dubois; Wendy Federman; Tina Fey & Lorne Michaels; Barbara H. Freitag; Sonia Friedman; Getter Entertainment; Mara Isaacs; Junkyard Dog Productions; Stephanie P. McClelland; Kevin McCollum; No Guarantees; Fiona Rudin; Jayne Baron Sherman; Abigail Rose Solomon; Allison Thomas; Joop van den Ende and Ken & Liz Whitney

Broadway Cares launched the emergency fund with an initial $250,000. Fundraising initiatives include $52,000 generated by Lin-Manuel Miranda during a special segment of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: At Home Edition. Another $73,000 was raised through a star-studded virtual reading of Lips Together, Teeth Apart streamed by Broadway.com on April 6, performed by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ari Graynor, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Zachary Quinto. The performance was in honor of playwright Terrence McNally, who passed away due to complications from COVID-19. On April 19, Broadway.com streamed a site-specific performance of Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar starring Michael Urie, which raised $209,262 for the COVID-19 emergency fund. On April 30, the upcoming Broadway musical Sing Street streamed a special video dubbed “Grounded – At Home with the Broadway Cast,” which raised $310,924 for the emergency assistance fund.

The Actors Fund offers a wide safety net of programs for everyone in the performing arts and entertainment industry. Broadway Cares is the single largest financial supporter of The Actors Fund.

Thanks to the historic generosity of donors and supporters, Broadway Cares awarded The Actors Fund $6.2 million in 2019. Since 1987, Broadway Cares has provided $101 million in support for The Fund’s essential programs.