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Direct From DAMES 2012!

March 29, 2012 Comments off

On Monday, March 26th, The Actors Fund took over the Gerald W. Lynch Theater to present the 17th annual Nothing Like A Dame, the always-unforgettable benefit organized by Tony-winner Phyllis Newman to support The Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative (PNWHI). This year’s theme was taken from Playbill‘s popular “Their Favorite Things” column, and the evening’s collection of spectacular entertainers — directed by Richard Roland and backed by musical director Glen Roven, drummer Buddy Williams, bassist Gary Haase and synth player Irwin Fisch — not only shared a few favorite things, but also raised $60K for PNWHI!

We’d like to thank Polly Bergen, Andréa Burns, Mario Cantone, Countess Luann de Lesseps, Lauren Flanigan, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Jackie Hoffman, David M. Lutken, Marilyn Maye, Alexandra Silber, Elaine Stritch, Talise Trevigne and Bruce Vilanch for taking time out to present such a fabulous show. And, as always, we’d like to thank the amazing Phyllis Newman for everything she does for The Actors Fund!

All photos by Jamie Liles.

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka was the first one to share a favorite thing: Seeing his first show ever when he was a child in Dallas...Hello Dolly starring Carol Channing!

Alexandra Silber sang "Will He Like Me?" from She Loves Me.

The wonderfully cantankerous Jackie Hoffman doesn't really have a favorite thing...except for her free Mondays...

Mario Cantone offered the audience one of its favorite things...his always hilarious interpretations of classic stars.

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka joined the always amazing Elaine Stritch for Call Me Madam's "You're Just In Love."

Andréa Burns's favorite thing? West Side Story.

Mary Godhino shared the story of how PNWHI helped her through an incredibly difficult time.

Bruce Vilanch does his best Tallulah Bankhead.

Villanch then chatted with Countess Luann de Lesseps, grilling her on her love of Broadway and Real Housewives "reality."

Marilyn Maye's favorite thing? Johnny Carson. And Steve Allen.

Operatic sensation Talise Trevigne shared her love of the Sitzprobe, and an aria from La Traviata.

Lauren Flanigan and her band did a song from her album of cut Kurt Weill songs, "There's Nothing Left for Daddy (but the Rhumba)."

Polly Bergen shared a little backstage dish from the show in which she first worked with Phyllis Newman, 1959's First Impressions.

For Dames' finale, the cast joined David M. Lutken for a Phyllis Newman request: Woody Guthrie's legendary "This Land Is Your Land."

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Thanks To The Grey’s Anatomy Team!

March 22, 2012 Comments off

Eric Dane, Shonda Rhimes, James Pickens, Jr., Jessica Capshaw, Sarah Drew, Sara Ramirez, Kim Raver, Justin Chambers, Kevin McKidd, Chandra Wilson, Sandra Oh and Tony Phelan at the post-show Q&A.

We’re still riding high from Sunday’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show, the spectacular benefit concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall, which raised $100K for The Actors Fund! We’d like to thank the cast members of Grey’s Anatomy who took part — Jessica Capshaw, Justin Chambers, Eric Dane, Sarah Drew, Kevin McKidd, Ingrid Michaelson, James Pickens Jr., Sara Ramirez, Kim Raver, Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson — as well as creator Shonda Rhimes and producer Tony Phelan, who put together an amazingly fabulous show. Sponsors for the concert included Remy Martin, Corner Bakery and BARCO, and more than $100K was raised. In her heartfelt tribute, Shonda encouraged the audience to support The Actors Fund, saying, “I believe in the joy I get from watching TV, film and theater, and a donation to The Actors Fund would be saying ‘You believe in the arts, too.’”

Cast members took the wildly enthusiastic, packed house through 11 songs, including numbers from “Song Beneath the Song,” the show’s March 2011 musical episode:

1. Chasing Cars – Sara Ramirez, Kevin McKidd, Chandra Wilson
2. How We Operate – McKidd
3. There’s a Girl – Sarah Drew
4. Wait – Wilson, Drew
5. Running on Sunshine – James Pickens Jr. Justin Chambers, McKidd, Ramirez, Kim Raver, Jessica Capshaw, Drew, Wilson
6. Young Folks – Chambers and his three daughters
7. Everywhere I Go – Wilson
8. Keep Breathing – Ingrid Michaelson
9. Looking at the World From a Bottom of a Well – McKidd
10. The Story – Ramirez
11. How to Save a Life – Everyone (Except Oh, Dane)

Once again, we thank the Grey’s team for their dedication, hard work, and incredible generosity!

And for a final little treat, here’s Kim Raver’s Good Day L.A. appearance from last week, during which she chatted about the event, and gave a great interview on the importance of The Fund’s services. Thanks Kim!

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There’s Nothing Like “Nothing Like A Dame”

March 14, 2012 Comments off

As we prepare for 2011’s Nothing Like A Dame — the 17th annual installment of the always-unforgettable benefit for The Actors Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative (PNWHI) — we keep finding incredible photos from DAMES past…which makes us even more excited for March 26th! Check out a few of our latest finds, then head on over to our site for more information and to purchase tickets!

A shot from DAME 1997, featuring Phyllis Newman with (l-r) Adolph Green, Mary Rodgers, Paul Libin and Florence Rowe Libin. Photo by Jerry Speier.

The always amazing Julie Andrews sings a number from Victor/Victoria in 1997. Photo by Jerry Speier.

Margo Jefferson and S. Epatha Merkerson in 1997. Photo by Jerry Speier.

Idina Menzel and Marisa Tomei celebrate DAMES 1997. Photo by Jerry Speier.

Audra McDonald in 2009. Photo by Anita Shevett.

Andrea McCardle performs for DAMES 2009. Photo by Anita Shevett.

Bebe Neuwirth in 2009. Photo by Anita Shevett.

Polly Bergen brings down the house in 2010 -- she'll be returning to do the same thing this year! Photo by Jay Brady Photography.

The 17th annual Nothing Like A Dame will take place March 26, 2011, at the Gerald Lynch Theatre. Visit our website to purchase tickets!

Star Of The Schermerhorn: The Actors Fund Arts Center (AFAC)

March 13, 2012 Comments off

The Actors Fund Arts Center

The Actors Fund Arts Center

When The Schermerhorn had its official ribbon-cutting in October 2011, Downtown Brooklyn received an added bonus: The Actors Fund Arts Center (AFAC). A state-of-the-art black box performance venue and rehearsal space on the lobby level of the building, AFAC’s mission is to serve as a resource for Brooklyn-based artists and arts groups to aid in the development and sharing of their work, as well as a venue for integrating the residents of The Schermerhorn with the surrounding community through the arts.

A member of the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance, The Actors Fund Arts Center is poised to become a cultural hub serving the diverse and rapidly evolving Downtown Brooklyn community. As NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin said at the Fall 2011 ribbon cutting, “People want to live in neighborhoods that have creativity and character, and this development in the heart of downtown Brooklyn’s growing cultural district provides housing for individuals of diverse economic and professional backgrounds, and it will also now attract cultural audiences from across the city and beyond.”

The Actors Fund Arts Center is available to Schermerhorn residents, and the rest of the creative community is welcome to rent the space at affordable rates. It can be utilized for rehearsals, shows, screenings or just about anything else a performing artist might conjure. So far, AFAC’s been used by a wonderful array of organizations, including the Brooklyn Ballet (The Schermerhorn’s resident ensemble) and the ReelAbilities Film Festival. (Click here for more information and AFAC rental rates, and email inquiries to ArtsCenter@actorsfund.org).

The latest edition of The Schermerhorn’s newsletter featured Q&As with three residents who’ve taken advantage of this wonderful new space. To offer a taste of AFAC’s potential, we thought we’d share the interviews on our blog!

Lia McPherson and Nicole Kontolefa at AFAC's entrance.

Lia McPherson (dancer, musician)

What have you been working on at The Arts Center? “The Pearl,” which we presented in January. The performance was free for tenants — they just had to sign up in advance.

What is “The Pearl”? Basically it’s an attempt to bring dance to non-traditional dance audiences. The first half features choreographers in various stages of their career, we try to keep it diverse, from tap dance to hip-hop. The second half of the show is more mixed-media, with musicians incorporating dance into the performance.

What’s the difference between this and a modern dance performance? The music component takes away from the stuffiness that you sometimes get from a typical dance show. The audience is less of a spectator, especially during the times when members of the audience are encouraged to join us on stage. It’s really more of a party.

What’s the response been so far? Everybody seems to know about it and they’ve been asking about the next one. We have followers now. When we did a Teena Marie tribute, they just lost it.

What else have you been working on? I’m a recording artist as well, and I had an album release party on December 30th at one of the only co-op restaurants in the city, a really special place that puts an emphasis on worker rights.

The Green Room

Nicole Kontolefa (actress, director)

What have you been working on at AFAC? Winter, a Russian play that my theater company Studio Six translated. It’s by a really important cultural figure over in Russia whose work has yet to be discovered here. It has to do with two soldiers on a mission they don’t understand. Kind of Waiting for Godot meets Midsummer Night’s Dream.

What was the experience like? Great. We were able to develop the piece slowly, performing a version of it for an audience, seeing what worked and what didn’t, and then we were able to go back and workshop it some more.

How did Studio Six get started? We’re a group of Americans who studied at the Moscow Art Theater School. After graduating we all wanted to keep in touch, especially since we were the only American class to have ever completed the four year course of study. The mission of the company is all about bringing the Russian style of performance here, which is pretty underrepresented.

How is the Russian style of theater different? It just has a different flavor than the American and European style. It’s more ensemble based, the performances take on a more dynamic relationship with the audience.

What are you working on now? We’re going back to Moscow for a run of “Town. A History” by Vladimir Pankov, a collaboration with a Russian company called SounDrama Studio. We performed the piece back in July at the Chekhov International Theater Festival—where we ended up getting an award for Best Experimental Show!—but now we’re taking it back to the homeland.

Mauricio Alexander rehearsing in AFAC.

Mauricio Alexander (actor, writer, director, musician)

What have you been working on at The Arts Center? I presented a concert/fundraiser for a short I wrote, directed and starred in called Departure. It’s a romantic comedy about a musician who ends up on the streets after getting dumped by his girlfriend and turns to music as a way to survive. I spoke with a number of different people who’ve been down-on-their luck in similar ways and they all seem to come away with the same feeling, like “Wow, how did I manage to survive that?” So I tried to somehow channel that feeling.

Why a concert for a fundraiser? Music is such an important component to the film, and so what I’m trying to do is attract musicians who may want to collaborate on the soundtrack. I wanted to keep the emphasis on local musicians as well, because the film is very Brooklyn in spirit.

How else are you trying to get the word out about the film? We’re trying something called “educational distribution,” where the film is going to be subtitled as a tool to teach English to Spanish-speakers. There’s so many different avenues a film can take these days.

AFAC's Dressing Room.

What are you working on now? I’ve got a solo performance stageplay called Whitino about the experiences of being half white & Latino. And I’m also working on a television sit-com pilot called Kings County about a Latino family in Brooklyn. Everything I’ve ever done has to do with Brooklyn.

Has your experience living at The Schermerhorn contributed to your creative process? Well I’m really excited to live at The Schermerhorn. The building is really unique, and it gives artists an opportunity to live and thrive in the Brooklyn community, while also giving us a chance to learn from an incredibly diverse environment.

For another peek at AFAC’s space, check out highlights from the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which features a clip from Brooklyn Ballet’s performance, among others.  For more information on The Actors Fund Arts Center and The Schermerhorn, visit www.actorsfund.org. AFAC photos by David Engelman and Andrew Miller.

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Musical Questions For The Cast Of Grey’s Anatomy: Sandra Oh

March 13, 2012 Comments off

On Sunday, March 18th, cast members from ABC’s hit drama Grey’s Anatomy will gather at UCLA’s at Royce Hall to perform Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show, a live musical celebration to benefit The Actors Fund. The show will include selected songs from last season’s Musical Event, music from the Grey’s Anatomy songbook, examine the way music has always been an integral part of the storytelling on Grey’s, and will provide fans with a rare behind the scenes glimpse at how the show is put together.

In anticipation of the show, we asked cast members to answer a few musical questions, and here’s what Sandra Oh (a.k.a. Cristina Yang) had to say.

Actors Fund: Name your favorite Broadway or movie musical of all time. Sandra Oh: Next to Normal.

AF: What’s your favorite genre of music? SO: This one’s very tough. Maybe I should say I’m genre-less…or poly-genre… Yeah, that’s more accurate.

AF: What’s on your iPod these days? SO: • The Pina, Drive, and Donnie Darko soundtracks. • Radiohead/Roxy Music — always. •Radiolab, This American Life.

Click here to purchase tickets for March 18th’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath The Show. You will be redirected to ticketmaster.com’s website.

Categories: Uncategorized

Five Musical Questions For The Cast Of Grey’s Anatomy: Chandra Wilson

March 6, 2012 Comments off

On Sunday evening March 18th, at UCLA’s at Royce Hall, cast members from ABC’s hit drama Grey’s Anatomy will gather to perform Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show, a live musical celebration to benefit The Actors Fund. The show will include selected songs from last season’s Musical Event, music from the Grey’s Anatomy songbook, examine the way music has always been an integral part of the storytelling on Grey’s, and will provide fans with a rare behind the scenes glimpse at how the show is put together.

In anticipation of the show, we asked cast members to answer a few musical questions, and here’s what Chandra Wilson (a.k.a. Miranda Bailey) had to say.

Actors Fund: Name your favorite Broadway or movie musical of all time. Chandra Wilson: Broadway: Man of LaMancha! I just love that story. And movie musical: The adaptation of Cinderella. It was done so well.

AF: Country or rock and roll? Why? CW: I’m an old musical theatre fan. In my fantasies, I’m a legit soprano.

AF: What’s on your iPod these days? CW: A little bit of everything!  But Broadway soundtracks:  Caroline, or Change, The Color Purple and In the Heights.

AF: Do you play a musical instrument? Which one(s)? CW: I act like I can play the piano. Right hand only.

AF: Can you tell us a song you’ll be singing on March 18? CW: I believe I’m singing on Chasing Cars, How to Save a Life, Wait and Everywhere I Go.

Click here to purchase tickets for March 18th’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath The Show. You will be redirected to ticketmaster.com’s website.

Five Musical Questions For The Cast Of Grey’s Anatomy: Jessica Capshaw

March 6, 2012 1 comment

On Sunday evening March 18th at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, cast members from ABC’s hit drama Grey’s Anatomy will gather to perform Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show, a live musical celebration to benefit The Actors Fund. The performance will include selected songs from last season’s Musical Event, as well as additional music from the Grey’s Anatomy songbook. This evening of song and story will examine the way music has always been an integral part of the storytelling on Grey’s, and will provide fans with a rare behind the scenes glimpse at how the show is put together.

In anticipation of the show, we asked cast members to answer a few musical questions, and here’s what Jessica Capshaw, aka Arizona Robbins had to say!

Actors Fund: Name your favorite Broadway or movie musical of all time. Jessica Capshaw: There cannot be one favorite musical of ALL time for me. But Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George comes pretty close to perfection for me.

AF: Country or rock and roll? Why? JC: I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll! However, having been born in the Midwest and spending so much time back there as a child I would say my country roots are pretty strong. The classics…Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and then Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, and Taylor Swift more recently.

AF: What’s on your iPod these days? JC: I’m such a mutt when it comes to my musical taste. When I put my iPod on shuffle I find that each track that comes up randomly seems like it should be nowhere near the one that came before or after it. I love my country as explained above but I also love reggae (all classics), hip-hop, top 20, folk, dance, indie, and alternative. I love all kinds of music, I really do.

AF: Do you play a musical instrument? Which one(s)? JC: I wish.  The cowbell and a mean tambourine.

AF: Can you tell us a song you’ll be singing on March 18? JC: Nope, because I don’t know what I am singing!

Click here to purchase tickets for March 18th’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath The Show. You will be redirected to ticketmaster.com’s website.

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