Archive for May, 2011

The Actors Fund’s 2011 Gala Honors Bebe Neuwirth, Al Pacino, and Michael J. Stengel & Marriott International

May 25, 2011 Comments off

Honorees Michael J. Stengel, Al Pacino and Bebe Neuwirth

Honorees Michael J. Stengel, Al Pacino and Bebe Neuwirth. Photo by Lyn Hughes.

On Monday night, stars, supporters and friends of The Actors Fund gathered at New York’s Marriott Marquis for the 2011 Actors Fund Gala. The evening celebrated this year’s two Medal of Honor winners, Bebe Neuwirth and Michael J. Stengel & Marriott International, as well as Al Pacino, recipient of the Lee Strasberg Artistic Achievement Award. Wonderfully, the event raised more than $1,000,000 to support The Actors Fund’s programs and services.

Check out the video below for a peek at the evening’s highlights!


Renata Marinaro on Health Insurance Today

May 25, 2011 Comments off

Renata MarinaroThe Actors Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) has been connecting artists, craftspeople and entertainment industry workers around the country to health insurance and affordable health care since 1998. Renata Marinaro, Director of Health Services, Eastern Region for The Actors Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center, tells us why the cost of health insurance continues to rise, and why reform is vital.

People are often shocked at how expensive health insurance premiums and health care in general have become. Entertainers who have spent time in other countries marvel at how inexpensive medication and office visits are abroad. When Mark, who you see in this video, came to me with his hospital bills, he was upset to find that his semi-private room at the hospital cost $3700 per night – and that was just for the bed! It would have been cheaper, and probably more comfortable, to stay at the Ritz.

Why are our health care costs so high in the US? There are many reasons, but I’ll list a few here. Our health care system creates very high administrative costs because it is extremely complicated. Each state has different regulations, and hundreds of insurance companies negotiate separate contracts with hundreds of thousands of providers. The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that administrative costs account for roughly 1/3 of US health care spending.  The US also has a higher ratio of specialists to primary care physicians; specialists have a longer training period than general practitioners, and make greater use of expensive technology.  Drug prices are also higher in the US because we allow pharmaceutical companies to charge us more than other countries do. And finally, the cost of providing care to the uninsured is extremely high; in 2008, almost $43 billion dollars was uncompensated (i.e. unpaid) care.

Employers and insurance companies are increasingly shifting the high cost of health care to consumers. Since 2005, the amount an employee contributes to their health insurance premium has gone up 47%; the average employee currently pays 30% of the total premium. In addition, employers are raising out-of-pocket limits, replacing co-pays with co-insurance, and increasing the use of high-deductible plans. More than a quarter of people buying their own coverage (not through an employer) have deductibles of $5000 or more, and more than 20% said they didn’t get medical care because of the high cost – even though they were insured.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (also known as health care reform) is designed to address some of the problems with our expensive, inefficient system.  A single set of operating rules for administrative and financial transactions will streamline the system. Additional funding will promote primary care and general surgery education. Drug costs have already been reduced for Medicare beneficiaries in the “doughnut hole.” And subsidies will help people afford insurance. (For example, it’s currently estimated that a single person who makes $21,000 per year will have their premium capped at 6.3% of their income, or roughly $110 per month).

Only such large-scale changes in the way we administer and pay for care will reduce health care spending and create a more equitable and affordable system that will make it possible for Americans to lead healthier lives.

*Statistics are from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Families USA, and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Categories: Uncategorized

Five Questions For: Hal Holbrook

May 19, 2011 Comments off

Hal HolbrookOn June 12, 2011, The Actors Fund’s Annual Tony Awards® Viewing Party returns to celebrate its 15th year of bringing the excitement of Broadway’s biggest night to our friends in Los Angeles. Hosted by Marilu Henner, this year’s gathering will honor the astonishingly talented Hal Holbrook with The Fund’s Julie Harris Award for Lifetime Achievement, which will be presented by Sean Penn, writer and director of Into the Wild, for which Holbrook earned his most recent Academy Award nomination. In advance of the festivities, Mr. Holbrook has graciously taken the time to answer a few of our questions.

Actors Fund: What does it mean to be receiving The Julie Harris Award for Lifetime Achievement?

Hal Holbrook: There is no recognition that means more to me than what I get from my fellow actors. I prize this profession above all others and the actors in it, and Julie Harris is a rare diamond among us.

AF: You’ve appeared in countless productions and have touched the lives of so many people. Why do you think an organization like The Actors Fund is such an important part of the industry?

Holbrook: Very few actors can build the financial resources for disasters or support in their elder years that people in other high profile professions are able to do. We have to take care of our own. They are family.

AF: You’ve also received an amazing array of awards, but many people say their favorite Hal Holbrook performance is your one-man play Mark Twain Tonight, for which you won a Tony. I’m sure you know that Mark Twain supported The Fund, too, most famously opening the 1907 The Actors Fund Fair at The Metropolitan Opera House. If you had the chance to sit down and discuss the industry with him today, what do you think he’d say?

Holbrook: I think Mark Twain would reiterate some of the things he said so eloquently about the service that an actor performs for the public heart and mind. As he did in the thunderous blast at a Brooklyn pastor who refused burial to a revered member of The Players Club. He fried the preacher in oil.

AF: Looking back, are there any other projects you’ve done that stand out as favorites?

Holbrook: My answer is yes. The Senator, Commander Bucher in Pueblo, Lincoln, King Lear, Shylock and anything I did with Dixie.

AF: You’ve just appeared in Water for Elephants, and have a few things in the works like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. What’s next for you?

Holbrook: My answer is this: Who knows?

Follow the link for more information and tickets to The Actors Fund Annual Tony® Viewing Party.

Producer’s Picks For The Win

May 12, 2011 Comments off

Kiefer Sutherland and auction winners

Kiefer Sutherland and some of the Jameson auction winners.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, Actors Fund supporters gathered at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre for a Producer’s Picks performance of That Championship Season. After the spectacular performance, Kiefer Sutherland shared some kind words about The Fund in his curtain speech, and then Chris Noth and Jason Patric auctioned two signed bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey — as well as a kiss to Mr. Noth! — to the audience, which raised an additional $1,800.

Producer’s Picks ticket holders were also invited to a post-show reception, where they mingled with the cast: Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, and Jason Patric. Director Gregory Mosher also stopped by, taking a moment to raise a glass of Jameson — which had donated some of its famous whiskey for the party — in honor of a great production. Visit our site to view more photographs from the party.

Broadway show producers donate Producer’s Picks tickets to The Actors Fund, so your entire ticket purchase goes to support our programs and services. Visit The Actors Fund Store for a list of upcoming performances, and to buy tickets to all upcoming events benefiting The Fund.

Celebrating Edwin Forrest’s Legacy

May 5, 2011 Comments off

Edwin Forrest Society member James Karen in LA.

The Actors Fund marked its annual Edwin Forrest Day celebrations with two special readings of Shakespeare: The first took place on April 29 on the grounds of The Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ (we’ve pasted our highlight video below), and the second, on May 2, at Off Vine in Los Angeles.

The history of The Actors Fund is entwined with the name of this great actor, who historians consider the first great star of the American theatre.

Born in Philadelphia in 1806, Edwin Forrest quickly became the most popular actor in nineteenth-century America. Particularly admired for his interpretations of Shakespeare, he was the first American to be acclaimed internationally as well. (His star shined so brightly, in fact, that he was one of the two actors whose Shakespearian rivalry spurred New York City’s infamous Astor Place Riot in 1849.)

Actors Fund Chairman Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Los Angeles celebration.

The most important part of Edwin Forrest’s legacy, though, was what he did to help change society’s perception of actors, which at the time was not generally positive. A major supporter of both The General Theatrical Fund and the American Dramatic Fund Association (two predecessors of The Actors Fund), his true desire was to establish a retirement home for the elderly members of the profession he so loved. Four years after his death in 1872, The Edwin Forrest Home opened in Philadelphia, funded by the bulk of Forrest’s enormous estate, which he left for this purpose. It remained open until the 1980s, when its Board of Managers decided to close the home, sell the property, and contribute its sizable assets to The Actors Fund for the merger of The Edwin Forrest Home with The Fund’s Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. Today, The Lillian Booth’s main section is known as the Edwin Forrest Wing.

The name of this great actor and humanitarian also lives on in The Actors Fund’s Edwin Forrest Society, membership in which is granted to those who have included a gift to The Fund in their estate plan. For more information on the Edwin Forrest Society, please call Wallace Munro, Director of Planned Giving, at 212.221.7300 ext. 128, or e-mail

Los Angeles Edwin Forrest Day photos by Daniel G. Lam. Edwin Forrest daguerreotype by Mathew Brady.

–Karissa Krenz