The Actors Fund: Helping Baristaville, One Performer at a Time

Broadway stage actress turned social worker Lucy Vance Seligson and her Broadway drummer husband Gary Seligson (currently playing in Billy Elliot) moved to South Orange a year ago with their two young children primarily because of the area’s existing community of performers.

“The industry is everywhere here,” Vance Seligson told Baristanet in a phone interview. “Wherever I go around Maplewood and South Orange, I find people who are in the performance world in one way or another, and that makes me feel at home. It’s more affordable in these neighborhoods than other areas around New York, and it’s convenient to the city.”

Baristaville’s robust theater community includes both a large selection of performance spaces, like SOPAC, with its newly-formed Midtown Direct Rep, Luna Stage, Paper Mill Playhouse, the Burgdorf Center Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, the Westminster Arts Center in Bloomfield, Nutley Little Theater, Montclair Operetta Club, Studio Players in Montclair and the Gas Lamp Players in Glen Ridge — and a plethora of actors and other theater professionals, not only in South Orange, Maplewood and Millburn, but in West Orange, Montclair, Bloomfield and Glen Ridge as well.

Whew! It seems safe to say that Baristaville is teeming with the industry’s finest.

For Vance Seligson the performance community is a lifestyle, beyond her time on stage. After 10 years on Broadway, she decided it was time to step out of the bright lights and give back to the industry that she loved. She got a Masters of Social Work and began work as the supervisor of services for seniors and the disabled at The Actor’s Fund — a nationwide human services organization that provides health and financial services to performing arts and entertainment professionals. For seven years, she’s been taking care of her own.

“Anyone who has worked in the performance industry has been touched by The Actor’s Fund in some way, either personally or through someone they know,” she said.

The Fund has been a safety net to the performance community for 128 years, providing programs and services for those who are in need, crisis or transition. “It’s safe to say that there are many residents [in Baristaville] who have received services of one kind or another from the Actor’s Fund. It’s a higher than average percentage than other parts of the metro area,” Vance Seligson explained. “They might need health insurance counseling, employment training when out of work, financial assistance in a crisis or medical treatment. The Fund has such an array of services, chances are that at some point people will need some kind of help.” The organization’s web site is full of information, lists of services and heart-felt testimonials of appreciative recipients.

Since it takes money to run an organization so far reaching as this one, amongst other development activities, The Actor’s Fund uses its own community for fundraising with special Broadway performances. The cast of current top-selling shows donate their time and resources and donate the proceeds of the performance to The Fund.

“Anyone who has ever been part of a Broadway show has probably given back to The Fund by being involved in a special performance,” Vance Seligson explained. “We’re all encouraged to give back.”

On Monday, February 7, at 8 p.m., the company of “Driving Miss Daisy” — which currently stars James Earle Jones, Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines — will perform a special benefit for The Actors Fund. The show will be dedicated to the memory of Redgrave’s siblings, Lynn and Corin, who both passed away in 2010.

“Both Lynn and Corin were staunch and gracious supporters of The Actors Fund as well as advocates for everyone dedicated to performing arts and entertainment,” said Jed Bernstein, the show’s producer and Actors Fund Trustee.

The performance will be at the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th Street in New York City. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here or call 212.221.7300 ext. 133.

Are you a member of Baristaville’s performance community? Want to share your own experiences with The Actor’s Fund?

Watch a video about The Actors Fund here.

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