Coping and Being of Use: SAG-AFTRA Disaster Fund Announcement

Coping and Being of Use: SAG-AFTRA Disaster Fund Announcement

Over the last few days, we’ve all been dealing with the every changing world as best we can. I’m currently self-isolating in a Toronto Harbourfront condo unit on the 35th floor, with a balcony that looks out over Toronto Island and the lake.  It’s not too bad, but it is very quiet. I’ve been writing and posting a couple of reviews of shows I saw before Broadway and Off-Broadway went dark and keeping busy with phone and Zoom therapy sessions.  I’m one of the lucky ones I guess, as I’m working pretty much as regularly as normal, although this week I should have been in London seeing plays at Donmar WarehouseNational TheatreThe Old Vic, and two shows in the West End (click on their names to get linked to their donations page – we need – big time- to support these important art institutions).

It’s a sad and confusing time, but one where we need to remember and believe in the power of community and everything that theatre stands for. We need to support those who are desperately out of work now until the lights get turned on once again (think about donating to theatre companies like the Public TheaterPlaywrights HorizonsAtlantic Theater Company – the British theatre companies links are up above – or whichever one is your favorite. They are going to be in desperate need. Or maybe find a way to give to an out-of-work artist – and – Thanks Lin-Manuel for the info). I saw a great Twitter feed where out of work actors were being asked to list their Venmo accounts so people could help them out. Such a lovely wonderful idea. Let’s all send a thank you to those who work so tirelessly to bring these productions to life day in and day out. It must be a shock to their systems to not do the thing they love to do.

On that note, I got a press release that I would love to share with you:

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation officially announced their strategy in facing the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. These plans include the newly created COVID-19 Disaster Fund, which is available to eligible SAG-AFTRA members impacted by the global pandemic, and taking many of its in-person programs online while their Los Angeles and New York offices remain closed.

The current health crisis highlights the importance of one of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s vital missions. Since 1985, the Foundation has granted over $12 million in emergency financial and health assistance, and given over $8 in scholarship grants to SAG-AFTRA artists and their families. Now, with hundreds of productions shutting down, many SAG-AFTRA artists will face even greater hardship than usual. As a result, the Foundation, along with the Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund, have created the COVID-19 Disaster Fund that is now available for SAG-AFTRA members impacted by COVID-19. The Actors Fund will assist by administering these resources on the ground.

We’ve already seen a major spike in applications and calls for help and that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future,” said SAG-AFTRA President Courtney B. Vance, who earlier today sent out an urgent video address to Foundation members. “I am strongly asking leaders and members of the entertainment industry to donate to the Foundation so that performers and their families will be given the critical support they need.”Powered by

SAG-AFTRA members are eligible to apply to the COVID-19 Disaster Fund if they are currently active and paid up on their dues through October 2019. The Fund covers members who are in an emergency financial crisis related to Coronavirus to help cover basic expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities, medical bills and other essential needs. All applications are confidential and anonymous.

As a non-profit, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation relies completely on donations. Due to these unprecedented times, the Foundation is asking for members of the entertainment industry to help their fellow artists.

If people are in a position to step up in this critical moment and help us provide relief to those in need, we need your support right away,” said Vance. “Your tax-deductible donations will help support performers during a time of crisis. So please donate generously.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation members seeking to apply for help, and interested donors, should go directly to the Foundation’s website:

While in-person programming remains temporarily suspended until further notice, SAG-AFTRA Foundation staff have been hard at work exploring new ways to make their programs and services available for members at home.

Our leadership has quickly come up with plans to strengthen our digital community,” said Vance. “This includes offering many of our classes remotely, live streaming and recording new programs, expanding our extensive video archive on our YouTube channel, and generating frequent communication and discussion on our various social media channels.

SAG-AFTRA members are encouraged to stay connected by going to the Foundation’s website at and by following the SAG-AFTRA Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for forthcoming announcements and new content.

It is just such a good cause and welcome relief from all the news and closing press releases that I have received these past few days. We need to support one another as many isolate themselves trying to be safe or not spread this virus. I do not want to be a new version of Typhoid Mary, so I’ve been quiet and removed, slightly worried about my cough that I’ve had a few days now, but less worried because there is no fever and I’m a pretty healthy and fit man. Our world has changed quite dramatically almost overnight, but I for one have to believe that we will return somehow from all this, and sit once again as a community watching art and design stand proudly before us on stage.


About the SAG-AFTRA Foundation In 2020, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation celebrates 35 years of giving back to the professionals of SAG-AFTRA, their families and communities. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides vital assistance and free educational programming to the professionals of SAG-AFTRA while serving the public at large through its signature children’s literacy programs. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation relies solely on support from gifts, grants and sponsorships to maintain its free programs. Visit for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation:Caroline O’
(323) 549-6604Connect with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation:Twitter sagaftraFOUNDInstagram: @sagaftraFOUNDFacebook: #SAGAFTRAfound #COVID19Relief

All Photos by Steven Ross.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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