caption: Back Row Left to Right: Jewish Ensemble Theatre Production Stage Manager Harold Jurkiewicz, HELP-Corktown Health Center Chief Development Officer Patrick Yankee, Director of Theatre Promotions at Wayne State University Devon Redmond, AEA Liaison Committee Chair Dana Gamarra, UNIFIED President and CEO William VanHemert, and Executive Director of World AIDS Day Detroit Maxwell Cameron. Front row: AEA Liaison Committee Co-Chair's Trudy Mason and Peggy Thorp, Barbara Locke-Jones and Christina Fluker with the Community Health Awareness Group. BTL Photo Alex Godin

Equity Theatre Group Gives Back to HIV/AIDS Organizations

BY KATE OPALEWSKI

FERNDALE - Members of the Detroit area Actors Equity Association Liaison Committee presented checks on May 8 to organizations in the community fighting against HIV/AIDS. Representatives from UNIFIED - HIV Health & Beyond, Detroit World AIDS Day, Health Emergency Lifeline Programs (HELP), and the Community Health Awareness Group were invited to the Matrix MAC Health Office in Ferndale to receive their awards.

A total of $11,000 to share with these organizations was made possible by the Equity & Friends Fight AIDS campaign established in 1988 to collect donations from audiences in professional theatres to be used for education, research, support and care for people living with HIV/AIDS in Southeast Michigan.

"We strongly believe in helping these community groups to do their good work," said Peggy Thorp, AEA Liaison Committee Co-Chair and EFFA Co-Chair. "Every nickel that is raised stays here."

That wasn't always the case when the Actors Equity Association launched their national campaign known as Broadway Cares in the mid '80s to raise money for HIV/AIDS support. This grew into an annual movement to involve Equity theatres from coast to coast and their patrons, but Thorp said not enough money was being generated in the Detroit area.

Since its inception 30 years ago, EFFA has raised over $135,000 for this cause. The campaign has traditionally been started in November around Thanksgiving and runs for a couple weeks leading up to and in honor of World AIDS Day on December 1. However, the group has received donations from theatres at all times of the year depending on when it is appropriate to their season to run the campaign. Cast and crew members deliver heartfelt appeals to audiences after their performances to donate.

"We have been amazed at the response. Patrons have been incredibly generous," said Thorp, pointing to this year's participating theatres: Detroit Repertory Theatre, Hilberry Theatre, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre and Williamston Theatre.

Past supporters include Two Muses Theatre, Purple Rose Theatre, Detroit Public Theatre, The Ringwald Theatre, Gem & Century Theatres, Abreact Theatre, Plowshares Theatre, Performance Network Theatre and University of Detroit Mercy.

"We are all volunteers who have been doing this for a long long time," said Dana Gamarra, AEA Liaison Committee Chair. "People have come together to contribute their monies to something way beyond themselves. This is something we are very proud to be a part of."

Connect with Equity & Friends Fight AIDS at 1645 Pinecrest Drive in Ferndale. For more information, email masonmacdearborn@gmail.com or peggity111@gmail.com. Learn more about the Actors Equity Association online.
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