Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is good news for all artists.
Since 1998, the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center at The Actors Fund has worked to find affordable health insurance and health care for thousands of visual and performing artists. Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act will help more artists secure health insurance. We look forward to playing a key role in making sure that every artist is insured.
Lack of insurance is an ongoing crisis among artists, many of whom are self-employed or work in small businesses that cannot afford to offer it as a benefit. Almost one out of three workers in our community is uninsured.
The Affordable Care Act includes numerous provisions that will make comprehensive insurance accessible to almost everyone in our community. Subsidies for the purchase of private insurance, health plan Exchanges that give small businesses and individuals the buying power of group purchasers (such as large companies and unions), the expansion of Medicaid eligibility, and the end of exclusion from coverage based on pre-existing conditions are just a few of the benefits of this law.
The mandate to purchase health insurance is an essential provision of the law, as well. It should make the cost more affordable for everyone by increasing the number of healthy individuals who purchase insurance, and force those who shift the cost of their care onto others to take financial responsibility for it.
As it has for 130 years, The Actors Fund continues to work diligently for the well-being of artists and entertainers. For us and the community we serve, this is not a political issue, but an issue of long-overdue access to quality, affordable health care for the people we serve.
-Joseph P. Benincasa, President & CEO, The Actors Fund
The 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. Getting health insurance or finding quality medical care is a constant concern for anyone who is uninsured or who isn’t covered by an employer, union or government health plan. AHIRC identifies alternative routes to coverage and local resources for care for performers, visual artists, stagehands, filmmakers, musicians, artisans, and other self-employed and episodic workers.
In addition, AHIRC has produced a concise and readable guide to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as the health care reform law. This guide clearly explains the most significant programs and reforms, with special emphasis on those that directly impact artists and entertainers. Every Artist Insured: Understanding Health Care Reform is written in a practical Q & A format and includes a timeline and links to pertinent websites.
The Actors Fund has a roster of generous and dedicated individuals who serve on our Board of Directors and its related committees, all of which serve to further the welfare of all professionals in the performing arts and in entertainment. Many of these people participate in our numerous special councils, each of which is focused on specific key issues and programs, including The Board of Trustees, Friends of The Lillian Booth Actors Home, National Board of Advisors, The Artists’ Committee, The Dancers’ Resource Advisory Council, Looking Ahead Advisory Council, and The Western Council, which supports the programs, projects and services of The Actors Fund, and develops and executes fundraising activities and projects on the West Coast. At its June 5 meeting, the Western Council elected six new members – and we’d like to welcome them on board! (For a complete list of Western Council members, visit our website.)
JOHN BOWAB is an American director and producer of television and theatre. Bowab began his career in theatre, directing a number of stage productions. Such as Mame (1983), The Night of the Hunter (2003) and most recently 70, Girls, 70 (2010). In the late 1970s, he moved on to television, amassing a large number of notable directing credits, including The Cosby Show, Benson, Bosom Buddies, Gimme a Break!, Small Wonder, Making a Living, Full House, Who’s the Boss?, The Facts of Life, Family Matters, Double Trouble, and Ellen. Along with Marty Wiviott, he has been producing The Fund’s Musical Mondays series for many years.
BUDD FRIEDMAN is best known as the founder and original proprietor and MC of the Improvisation Comedy Club, which opened in 1963 on West 44th Street near the SE corner of 9th Avenue, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. He was instrumental in launching the comedy careers of Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Lewis, Robert Klein, Jay Leno, Andy Kaufman, Freddie Prinze, Steve Landesberg, Jimmie Walker, and for a brief time, managed Bette Midler at the early stages of her career. It was with Friedman’s help and guidance that Ms. Midler first appeared on The Tonight Show. He is also an actor and producer. Friedman also opened an Improv club at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California as well as Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio, California.
KATHERINE FUGATE wrote the screenplay for Garry Marshall’s hit romantic comedy Valentine’s Day and the follow-up film, New Year’s Eve. Fugate created and executive produced the hit Lifetime Television series Army Wives, an ensemble drama about the relationships and struggles of a diverse group of women living on an active army base with their families – it is the most successful series in the network’s history. Fugate previously wrote the screenplay for the 2004 feature The Prince & Me, directed by Martha Coolidge and starring Julia Stiles, and the largely autobiographical 2003 film Carolina, starring Shirley MacLaine in the role of Grandma Mirabeau (based on Fugate’s own late grandmother). She also wrote for the series Xena: Warrior Princess, contributing an episode that was voted into the top 10 of its entire six-season run.
DAN GUERRERO began his eclectic career in New York, to which he moved from East LA at age 20 to sing and dance in musicals. He performed off-Broadway, in regional theatre and summer stock productions, and in countless cabaret revues – including one that took him to the Nixon White House. He later became a successful Broadway talent agent in the years ranging from A Chorus Line to Cats, representing Tony Award winners and future Hollywood names. After moving back to L.A., Dan became a born-again Hispanic fiercely working for more positive Latino images on the screen as a casting director, writer and – for the past dozen years – as a producer and director. Guerrero has been widely-acclaimed as a highly creative independent producer of diverse programming for network and cable television in both English and Spanish, including NBC, PBS, HBO, FOX, Univision and Telemundo.
MICHAEL MEDICO wrote and directed the short film Bitch. for a friend’s Oscar Party “extra short” competition, and it went on to receive a great deal of attention on the festival circuit and was named best short film of 2009 in Frontiers LA magazine. His second film, Power Play was a finalist in the 60oneminutes.org competition. He is also the creator and director of A2IM’s anti-piracy campaign entitled Stealing Sucks. Before directing, Michael spent many years in New York and Los Angeles as an actor. His television credits include Grey’s Anatomy, House, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Threshold, Frasier, Will & Grace, Sex and the City, Law & Order: SVU, Roswell, Angel, and others. He is also the creator and executive producer of HOT IN HOLLYWOOD a celebrity-driven benefit that has raised more than half a million dollars in three years for domestic and international AIDS organizations.
MARTY WIVIOTT began his longtime association with the Nederlander Organization in 1990, and since 1996 has been the General Manager of Nederlander theatrical activities in Los Angeles. He oversees Broadway LA, the Nederlander subscription series in Los Angeles, and is the Manager of the Historic Pantages Theatre. Prior to 1990, Mr. Wiviott was Producer of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera, and during his eight year tenure it become one of the most successful regional theatres in the country, with a subscription base of over 30,000 and critically acclaimed productions such as Sunday In The Park With George, Follies and Jesus Christ, Superstar. In addition, Wiviotts LBCLO productions included many popular operettas such as Bittersweet with Shirley Jones, Song of Norway with Ann Blyth and The Merry Widow with Edie Adams. He also produced The Unsinkable Molly Brown in Long Beach with its original film star, Debbie Reynolds (which went on to a two-year national tour), and was the first to produce Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan prior to her national tours.
The last few weeks have been incredibly exciting for the Broadway Arts Center project in downtown Los Angeles, for which The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) has been playing a critical role. On June 5, AFHDC announced the formalization of a new partnership with the Minneapolis-based Artspace as part of the project, which hopes to create a mixed-use development comprising a black box theater, art gallery, creative commercial space and affordable housing for artists. And to further underscore the project’s viability, ArtPlace (a new national collaboration of 11 major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks, and eight federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, dedicated to transforming communities with strategic investments in the arts) announced on June 12 that the Broadway Arts Center will receive $470,000 – the largest national grant to be awarded.
Congratulations to Tony Award® winning actor Jason Alexander, who receives the Julie Harris Award at our June 10 Tony Awards® Viewing Party in Los Angeles! In anticipation of the big day, we sent Jason a few questions – and he took the time to send us these fabulous responses! (And don’t forget to enter to win a free pair of tickets to the party – a $500 value! http://ow.ly/bhkXa)
Actors Fund: In addition to your award winning role on Seinfeld, we love what you’ve done on stage–especially your Tony-winning work in musical theatre. Is there a stage role you’d particularly love to tackle?
Jason Alexander: I know most people wouldn’t think this would be my dream role but I am dying to play Sweeney Todd. I believe I understand and could bring things to this role that the other wonderful artists who have portrayed him have not found. It sits beautifully in my range. Again, most people don’t know that because most of my musical work has been performed in character voices. I create a speaking voice for the character and then try to sing in that voice, as well. With Sweeney, I could use more of my real instrument.
AF: We hear you’re a talented magician as well! Can you tell us a little bit about your most favorite or challenging trick? (We won’t ask you to reveal its secrets, of course!)
JA: There is no particular individual trick that is a favorite. When I performed my eventually award-winning show at the Magic Castle, the challenge was that most of the audience did not think of me as a magician. In fact, they thought of me as George, a decidedly unmagical persona. I had to create a premise that would allow them to forget George and embrace the possibility that what I was doing in front of them was plausible. I created an act of mentalism illusions but presented them with a mix of storytelling and scientific fact that actually led the audience to believe that the tricks were possible. That was a great magical accomplishment and made me most proud.
AF: What role do you feel organizations like The Fund play in society in general (especially in this particularly charged political climate…)?
JA: When economies are challenged, particularly when people have very little expendable monies, the arts in all its forms suffers disproportionately. Arts education gets less funding in schools, arts organizations get less general support and ultimately artists themselves are paid less and less and given less opportunities to work. Of course, when the arts are dismissed as expendable, it is tantamount to saying that humanity is expendable. The arts are a celebration and exploration of our common humanity, our common heritage and all our combined dreams and ambitions and passions. When we cease to support that, we diminish every person and every part of society. Organizations like The Actors Fund find the ways to keep arts and artists going through the hardest times. They provide the vital support that allows us to survive during these downturns. They literally keep art alive and allow the current generation of artists to go on with their work, which in turn inspires the next generation. Without that support, the chain would break and the damage would be permanent and irreparable.
AF: We know you love playing poker, too. If you had access to a time machine, who would be sitting at your dream table?
JA: Without naming individuals, I would try to assemble the biggest bunch of losers with the biggest wads of cash.
AF: What are you listening to these days?
JA: I have always been a cast album junkie and love artists that have very theatrical flair in their songwriting and performance work. I’m currently in love with the cast album of Once. I am playing a lot of Jason Robert Brown. And I’m never far from my old standbys – Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor, Kenny Loggins – go ahead, judge me. I can take it.
To purchase tickets to the 16th annual Tony Awards® Viewing Party in Los Angeles honoring Mr. Alexander, and hosted by Scott Bakula, please visit our webpage. We look forward to seeing you on June 10th! Click here to enter to win a free pair of tickets to the party! http://ow.ly/bhkXa