S.T.A.G.E. LA is back for year 33 with “Idols & Icons”!
The Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE) is back for its 33rd year with an all-singing, all-dancing, one-night-only tribute to the stars of yesterday and today with “Idols & Icons”, all to benefit AIDS Project LA. Held on Saturday, May 13th, and back at the historic Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, David Galligan directs with Michael Orland returning as Musical Director.
“Idols & Icons” will pay tribute to Stephen Sondheim, Shirley Bassey, Bob Fosse, George Michael, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince and more. Stars of film, Broadway and television scheduled to appear in the concert that raises critical funds for APLA Health include: India Carney, Carole Cook, Melinda Doolittle, Anthony Fedorov, Barrett Foa, Sam Harris, Jane A. Johnston, Dale Kristien, Vicki Lewis, Kimberley Locke, Jon Maher, Sharon McNight, Jennifer Paz, Christine Pedi, Jai Rodriquez, Jake Simpson and Nita Whitaker, with additional casting to be announced.
Begun in 1984, STAGE is the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world. To date, STAGE has raised more than $5 million for HIV/AIDS organizations in the Southland. Co-created by Michael Kearns, the late James Carroll Pickett, David Galligan and Susan Obrow, STAGE continues to be a vital and essential fundraiser more than three decades later. David Galligan has staged and directed all 33 productions.
At the forefront in the beginning and where she still is today, is the legendary Carole Cook. STAGE LA is truly a passion in her life. Recalling her years of performing in this event (she’s only missed two), for Cook it’s all about “[T]he group effort. It’s the camaraderie.” Going back to the beginning in 1984, Cook’s memories are as vivid as if the events unfolded yesterday; sadly many still are. “When we started in 1984 there wasn’t even a name for this disease. We called it ‘the plague.’ They called it ‘the gay disease.’ There wasn’t even a name.” It was a grass roots effort on the parts of everyone. “We’d say, ‘Could you come to this show we’re doing?’ And people would say, ‘What’s it for?’ and we’d tell them. Most people didn’t even know what we were talking about! . . .For the first few years we brought our own coffee. We cleaned the bathrooms ourselves. The performers cleaned the bathrooms! We sold the programs. I don’t even think we had programs to start. We did our own hair and make-up. There were no frills at all.”
It wasn’t until Russell Smith, Cook’s hairdresser for 42nd STREET, got involved that the tides turned for the production and as a result, so did attendance. As Cook tells it, “[Russell] said to me one day, he was being a smart ass, he said, ‘Carole, I’ve seen the show. You women need help with your hair. You are beauty violations. [laughing] So, I’ll volunteer.’ And he brought three or four friends. Then somebody started with the make-up. Then somebody started with costumes and gradually it became bigger and bigger. But it started out so small. . . .But what we did, we serviced Southern California; men, women and children. We’d pay their rent. At that time there was no support group. There was nowhere to go to get any help. About 25 of us went in together, we formed our own little thing, and I remember so clearly, we would get the names of people as things happened, we would all of us – my husband, myself and everyone of them – would put money in a pot and as people began to be ill, this was right at the beginning, we pooled our money once a month – everybody put in “X” amount of money and we paid for their rent, we paid for their animals, and got them food when they needed food. We did that for a long time until there became people that came in with organizations.” And that organization now is AIDS Project LA.
Funds raised through STAGE support an array of APLA Health’s services, including its Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries; health centers that provide medical, dental, and mental health care; home health services; housing assistance; HIV prevention and testing efforts; and many more on which those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS depend. STAGE is among the most enduring and valuable sources of private support for the agency’s HIV/AIDS care, prevention and advocacy work. See www.aplahealth.org for more.
As Cook so eloquently and simply states as the reason this annual event is so important, “The more we do, the more it’s helpful for the world. You can’t be complacent. It’s just a sense of belonging and taking care of people in the best waypossible.”
Thanks to my guest actress/singer/performer/activist Joely Fisher...
Tickets may be purchased by going to www.sabantheatre.com or Ticketmaster
For further information, please go to www.stagela.com
Lisa Foxx sits down with actress Joely Fisher about her partake in The Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE) and their "Idols & Icons" performance, which will benefit AIDS Project LA.