I know it sounds strange to say that I enjoy being asked for money but I look forward to those pitches for donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS when I'm at a show.
Since it's World AIDS Day 2010, here's a pitch from me.
At the end of 2009, there were 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, about 1 million of them in the United States. An estimated 56,300 Americans become infected every year.
This year's United Nations report offers some encouraging statistics: worldwide, the number of people newly infected with HIV is declining and AIDS-related deaths are decreasing.
But much work remains, including caring for people who are living with the disease.
Whenever I go to the theatre at this time of year I always make sure that I have a little extra cash to drop in the bucket if the cast is collecting for Broadway Cares. (Touring productions of Broadway shows often collect donations, too.)
The organization will award about $10 million in grants in 2010 to groups in nearly every state and around the world. Broadway Cares supports health clinics, food service and meal delivery, housing and emergency assistance. Most likely an organization near you receives help.
Broadway Cares also supports other organizations that provide services to performing artists, including the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative, the Al Hirschfeld Free Clinic and resources for actors and dancers.
While they're serious about the organization's good work, the requests for donations at the curtain call are often done with a sense of humor. In 2008, I watched Daniel Radcliffe auction off a sweaty polo shirt he wore during Equus.
This fall, David Hyde Pierce was ready with a few witty one-liners after La Bete. (He should host the Tony Awards!) And it was sweet to see 12-year-old Jeremy Gumbs, the youngest cast member of The Scottsboro Boys, smile broadly at the curtain call after playing a very serious role so well. He was so incredible in the musical that it was almost startling to realize yeah, he's a kid.
But I have to give the prize to the cast of Lombardi. Bill Dawes, who plays Green Bay Packer Paul Hornung, had us laughing hysterically. And Dan Lauria was pretty funny, too, staying in character as the legendary Packers coach.
I got an autographed Playbill for $20 (a color one!) and I saw quite a few people walking out of the theatre with $100 signed window cards. But any amount helps.
I'm happy to support an organization that helps so many people and it's my way of saying thank-you to the people whose work I've enjoyed all year long. That includes everyone who works onstage and backstage and without whom, the show would not go on.
Broadway Cares also has an online store with lots of great ideas for gifts for Christmas, Chanukah or any time of year.