In 1882, The Actors Fund began its long and important tradition of providing vital services to entertainment and performing arts professionals who were facing times of need, crisis or transition. But the real story of The Actors Fund is best told by people in our creative community who know first-hand how The Fund helps artists to thrive. Meet Joseph.
For 22 years, Joseph danced with the likes of Joffrey Ballet, Dutch National Ballet (as a principal), American Ballet Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Diagnosed with HIV in 1987, he continued to work until his health began to fail a few years later. After finally regaining his heath in 1996–7, thanks to the new medications that had recently come out, he came to The Fund after learning about it from his AGMA colleagues.
“Keith McNutt [now head of The Actors Fund Western Region] was my social worker, and he was great.”
“I was meeting with Keith at least once a week just to talk about the ramifications of what had happened from the disease and trying to figure out where I was, because I was a survivor, and this plague had happened, and all of a sudden I’m on the other side. And it still is problematic in terms of a PTSD manifestation for a lot of us who are survivors of AIDS. That was really the first time I went to The Actors Fund for help, so it was really crucial in terms of helping me pay my mortgage, but also giving me the counseling and the wherewithal to continue in life, and understand what I needed to do and put it in perspective.”
Life improved, but in 2006 things got rough again, so he turned again to The Fund. This time he worked with social worker Elizabeth Avedon and joined a long-term survivors group, which meets every Monday. “It’s been terrific.”
Elizabeth recognized the positive role yoga was playing in Joseph’s life, so she encouraged him to take yoga teacher training, which he did with the help of scholarships from Career Transition for Dancers and The Fund’s Willard Squire scholarships. Since then he’s taken even more classes, and is happily teaching.
“It brought a whole new element of working into my life, a career side, and it helped me emotionally so much. It’s so multi-faceted what The Actors Fund has done for me, it’s hard to say it was any one thing, because it was so many things.”
“It’s been a godsend to me, and I know for a lot of other people, too. I don’t know if we would have been able to survive in New York—or anywhere—without it. And what The Actors Fund is specifically good for is people with HIV, because they’ve had a long history with it, they were there at the beginning of the crisis, they know all the different stages of it, and so they know all the reference points.”
Explore actorsfund.org to learn more about our free and confidential programs and services for everyone in performing arts and entertainment, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, The Career Center, and more. Help us be there to help those in need in our creative community by making a donation today!
Photo: Joann Coates.