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 Jack.
Director Jack Hofsiss, celebrated for his Tony-winning helming of the 1979 Broadway production of The Elephant Man as well as a long list of Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional, film and Emmy-nominated television work, quickly rose through the theatrical ranks after graduating from Georgetown: he became a founding member of Washington, D.C.’s Folger Theater Group, and was soon invited to work at New York’s Public Theater by Joseph Papp himself (Hofsiss helped cast the original A Chorus Line while there).
From casting, Hofiss went to directing Off-Broadway and then on Broadway (The Elephant Man, Poor Little Lambs, and Out of Our Father’s House). His success helped him expand into television and film direction. But in 1985 his life changed in an instant, when he dove into a pool and became paralyzed from the chest down.
In spite of this challenge, Jack has continued his acclaimed work. But he again faced a sudden hardship a few years ago when he found himself in urgent need of housing. His friend Robert LaFosse (with the American Ballet Theater) reminded Jack about The Actors Fund’s Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence (formerly The Aurora)—even though he’d been aware of The Actors Fund for most of his career, he’d never really thought about calling to ask about the services.
He did, and two years ago Jack moved into The Friedman. “Through the intercession of a number of people—I was able to find myself someplace to live here. That was primarily a lifesaver, because I didn’t know what was going to happen at the end of the month—it was that swift and dramatic, as a lot of things in my life have been.”
The Friedman is more than just an affordable place for low-income people in the creative community to live (including seniors, working professionals and people living with HIV/AIDS). It offers support, services and amenities, such as the Colleen Dewhurst Community Room, which has become a convenient and easy place for Jack to coach, do readings, and teach an occasional directing class for his HB Studio students. “It’s about coming to Mohammed instead of Mohammed having to schlep to the mountain,” he jokes.
The building also includes The Actors Fund’s Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic which provides free health care to uninsured and underinsured documented entertainment industry professionals between the ages of 18 to 64. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the Clinic also offers the community counseling around getting insured through The Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center.
“I absolutely love it. Everyone is incredibly supportive and friendly and that’s just wonderful to have. You feel very supported and there is a sense of concern in the building that you are well,” he adds.
The community support Jack has at The Friedman has helped him to continue to teach, direct and build on his long list of credits—he’s currently developing two new pieces with one based on Marlon Brando’s first film The Men (1950).
“This living situation saved my life in terms of what was going on with me at that time,” he says. “It’s been wonderful.”
Explore actorsfund.org to learn more about our free and confidential programs and services for everyone in performing arts and entertainment, including The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, Affordable and Supportive Housing Services, The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic and the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center. Help us be there to help those in need in our creative community by making a donation today!
Photo: Joann Coates.