The Bard turned 448-years-young on Monday, and as is our tradition at The Actors Fund, we marked the occasion with our annual Edwin Forrest Day celebrations.
The Philadelphia-born Edwin Forrest (1806–1872) was America’s first great internationally-acclaimed actor. Incredibly popular (so much so, in fact, that he was one of the two actors whose Shakespearian rivalry spurred New York City’s infamous Astor Place Riot in 1849), he used his fame to help change society’s perception of the people who worked in the theatrical community — who were considered, at the time, to be among the lowest of the low.
When he died, Forrest left his estate to found Philadelphia’s Edwin Forrest Home for retired actors (which merged with The Lillian Booth Actors Home in 1990). Additionally, this great actor and humanitarian requested two other things in his will: That we read The Declaration of Independence every July Fourth, and mark William Shakespeare’s birthday with a reading of his work, which we dutifully do every year in Los Angeles and Englewood.
On Thursday, April 19th, the Los Angeles Edwin Forrest Day event was hosted by Edwin Forrest Society member and new Western Council member John Bowab in his West Hollywood home. Charlotte Rae spoke about The Fund’s Gift Annuity program, and the legendary Michael York honored the guests with a reading of excerpts from Henry V, Hamlet and two sonnets.
On Monday the 23rd, Norm Lewis led the celebrations at The Lillian Booth Actors Home, reading an excerpt of Antony’s famous speech at Caesar’s grave from Julius Caesar — highlights of which are in our video below:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To mark National Volunteer Week, we thought we’d take some time to thank all of the generous people who have donated their time and talents to The Actors Fund.
What we do is made possible — and even better — by the vast array of individuals who help The Fund in a variety of ways: Those who volunteer in our offices and at our events; the people who have participated in programs like the HIV/AIDS Initiative Buddy Program; the creative folk who run activities like free yoga, meditation or art classes at The Schermerhorn, Friedman, and Palm View; the generous souls who take time to visit, perform, and lead activities like music, writing or other creative activities at The Lillian Booth Actors Home; the doctors who offer free health services through the Broadway Docs program; the performers, directors, stage managers, musicians, producers, theatre managers and others who donate their talents to make our benefit evenings possible; the Looking Ahead alums who mentor the program’s current young participants; the actors, editors, hair and make-up artists, cinematographers, lighting designers, and others who make things like our Podcast Series and PSAs possible; and many, many others.
And the numbers show just how wonderful they all are: In 2011, 516 volunteers donated 63,350 hours, valued at $230,261. Amazing!
One of our longest-serving, most dedicated volunteers is Marion Simon, who, at 90 years young, just happens to be the mother of our very own Patch Schwadron, The Actors Fund Work Program’s Career Counselor Supervisor. We asked her to share a little bit about her background with us, and she sent us this lovely response:
Philadelphia born in 1923, I received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1944, and an MA from Brown 1962. In between I had two great kids, one now with the Department of Health in Rhode Island, and the other a proud member of the Actors Fund Work Program.
When my Orthopod husband passed in 1993, I retired to Manhattan, where I am so pleased to be useful to The Fund as the oldest data entry clerk/volunteer around.
In 1964, Trinity Repertory Company’s founding Artistic Director, Adrian Hall, hired me as what we jokingly referred to as “faut de mieux,” or whatever position we couldn’t afford to hire an expert. I learned the ins and outs of theatre management from a master, and eventually participated with him in some of the operation itself. I assisted in the casting, fundraising, educational projects, scheduling, subscription management and general planning.
When I came to New York, I was welcomed by colleagues from throughout my 25 years with Trinity, and asked to join the League of Professional Theatre Women, for which I now serve as a member of the Board of Directors and enjoy tremendously.
I believe it was the famous British writer E. M. Forster who suggested the mantra “only connect,” which I hold dear. It is what the elderly need to enjoy their lives, and I have it with my lovely family, The Fund and the League.
Actors Work Program Job Developer Billie Levinson had this to say about Marion: “For 9 years, Marion volunteered for The Fund around 15 – 20 hours/week – sometimes more if one of us were out sick or on vacation. She learned multiple databases and was also able to work the phones disseminating information about all our programs to callers. For the last two years, she has done her data entry work from home. She is also a fabulous conduit to the theater community and was responsible for a number of AWP members getting interesting, theater related sideline jobs. It was truly a gift to have her in the office – and even though she is still working for us from home, we miss her presence very much. Marion is an inspiration and illustration of how rich senior life can be. Almost every week someone would come in for Orientation and be thrilled when they saw her – they remembered her from as long as 30 or more years ago when she impacted their lives/careers in her role working with Adrian at Trinity Rep. It was like having a little piece of theater history right here at AWP.”
Thank you, Marion — and every one of our 516 volunteers — for your dedicated service! If you’d like to volunteer for The Fund, visit our website for a list of the many ways you can help. We’d love to have you!
Last Thursday, Actors Fund Western Region Director Keith McNutt and Director of Social Services Tina Hookom were guests on Samm Brown’s For The Record, KPFK 90.7 FM’s weekly radio show that delves into various behind-the-scenes entertainment industry issues. Keith and Tina’s one-hour live chat with Samm included a discussion of the Actors Fund’s fascinating history, what makes our work possible, a bit on who we help and how we help them, the realities of working in the entertainment industry, and an overview of The Fund’s programs and services. They took some interesting listener calls throughout the broadcast, too.
If you’d like to check out the archived show, go to http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=fortherecord, scroll to the April 5th program, and click the “play” link to download and listen in your music player.
Did you know that one of the ways people help The Actors Fund help everyone in entertainment is by making gifts through estate planning? In amounts ranging from modest gifts to large bequests, the amazing roster of people who’ve included The Fund in their estate plans includes George M. Cohan, Madeline Kahn, Katherine Hepburn, Al Jolson, Helen Hayes, Albert Hacket, Lucille Lortel, Tony Randall, Basil Rathbone, Martha Raye, Lynn Redgrave, Clifton Webb, and Jule Styne. And there are numerous ways you can give to The Fund, too: From song royalties to bequests, charitable annuities to gifts of life insurance, you don’t have to be a star to include The Fund in your estate plans.
Whatever the gift may be, we are grateful to each and every one of our donors, such as Marion and Francis Lederer, a couple wonderfully dedicated to making their community the best place it could possibly be.
Marion, born in Canada, was Los Angeles Commissioner of Cultural Affairs from 1980–85, and was a founding member of the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA), and founded the United Nations’ Sister City Program. Francis was born in Prague and, after service in World War I, became one of Europe’s top male film stars through roles in movies like Maman Colibri, The Wonderful Lie of Nina Perovna, and Pandora’s Box, considered one of Germany’s greatest silent films. He made the successful transition from silent films to talkies, then moved to the United States and became a citizen in 1939 where his performing career — on stage, screen, and television — flourished. One of the earliest members of the Screen Actors Guild, he founded the American National Academy of Performing Arts, where he taught a weekly workshop for actors.
The Lederers’ were married in 1941, and their marriage lasted for 59 years. Honored on numerous occasions, they were proud Ambassadors for UNICEF, and served on the boards of numerous community and civic organizations. We are grateful for the examples they set as citizens of the world and supporters of The Actors Fund.
If you’d like to know more about how you can become part of The Actors Fund’s planned giving tradition, contact Wally Munro at email@example.com or 212.221.7300. It can be very easy to do, and the gifts are often very modest, but the feeling you’ll get by becoming a part of the history of giving is immeasurable.