Monday, November 06, 2006
Tonight's the Night
Tonight, I speak at the Jeff Awards Ceremony at the Merle Reskin Theatre. The Jeff Committee gives Season of Concern time to speak during the ceremony every year, but this year is special. Well...no...every year is special. I say that because last year, I spoke at the Jeff Awards the day after I attended the memorial service for a good friend of mine, Michael Garcia, who had died from AIDS-related illnesses; he was in a coma and died with Kaposi's sarcoma lesions covering his lungs. I was angry last year as I spoke to the crowd about Michael's death. And then this past summer when I spoke at the non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony, the date was June 5, 2006 - - exactly 25 years to the day of the first reported case of AIDS in this country. After that speech, I was tremendously sad. God looks over us when we need it and the lovely George Howe came backstage to hug me after I finished my speech and I cried in his arms. I told him that I could see all of their faces...all of the people I knew who had died from this fucking disease. I wish they were still here with me. Especially my mentor, Lemmie.
Tonight is special because Season of Concern is announcing an expansion of our mission tonight. As long as there is breath in my body and I am at the helm of this organization, we will ALWAYS fight for direct care support for people living with HIV and AIDS - - that will NEVER change - - but now we are in a position to also help other members of the Chicago theatre community experiencing other life threatening illnesses or accidents. I hear stories again and again of actors in and out of the union who had been in a car wreck and can't work or who need an operation but they don't have health insurance and can't afford a procedure that would help them life their life to the fullest again. Through the expansion of our internal fund, the Biscotto-Miller Fund, Season of Concern will be able to provide small, individual no-red-tape grants to people living with HIV and AIDS and other life threatening illnesses starting on January 1, 2007. This is in addition to our funding of a dozen local AIDS service organizations and the AIDS Initiative of The Actors' Fund of America.
I love this organization and I have seen firsthand the amazing ways that this theatre community's fundraising efforts has improved the lives of so many artists. Wish me luck in my speech tonight.