What is the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund?
TCBF provides financial relief in a confidential, respectful manner to individual theatre practitioners of Greater Boston and the surrounding areas, facing occurrences of a catastrophic nature including but not limited to extreme illness, devastating acts of nature, housing emergencies, vandalism, and theft, and who have limited or no resources with which to handle such events. TCBF recognizes the essential value of artists and arts organizations to society, and treats all applicants with dignity, discretion, and compassion.
In the Fall of 1997, a Boston-area theatre artist became ill with a life-threatening condition. The theatre community decided to throw a party in order to raise funds to help with medical expenses. The Big Easy nightclub (now closed) opened its doors free of charge for this event, and theatre artists of various disciplines donated their time, money, and expertise. The party was an unqualified success. Out of that experience arose the idea to create an organization that aids members of our theatre community who are in dire need and do not have the financial resources to meet those needs. That organization became the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (TCBF). The first directors and officers of TCBF were Polly Hogan and Ron Ritchell, founders of the Lyric Stage and Lyric West Theatre, and Mary C. Huntington, founding artistic director of The Nora Theatre Company.
In order for the Fund to grow and be more effective, the directors approached StageSource to assist with management. Through this affiliation, both organizations benefited by being better service providers, giving the theatre community a strong resource to turn to in times of trouble. After establishing a strong identity within the community, and building out separate accounts, TCBF formally and legally separated from StageSource in 2018. Though StageSource still remains a sustaining supporter of and cheerleader for TCBF, the separation helped to squelch questions from applicants as to whether they needed to be members of StageSource in order to apply and/or qualify for funding (which they do not). More importantly, this allowed TCBF to apply for funding as a separate 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
The first substantial contributor to TCBF was the Boston Theater Marathon (BTM), established in 1999 by Kate Snodgrass, Artistic Director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, for the dual purpose of promoting the area’s wealth of playwrights and of contributing to the Fund. To this day, the BTM remains the largest single contributing event for the Fund, with all of that event’s profits going directly to TCBF. In subsequent years, theatres throughout the region have participated in fund drives for the organization. TCBF established the May Day program in 2010 to encourage theatres to dedicate time during the month of May to raise awareness of TCBF’s mission and solicit donations to the Fund from their audiences. Eventually, citing the increase in fundraising initiatives that occur in late spring for many theatre companies, a decision was made to change May Day to May Day, Any Day, giving organizations more freedom to choose the best time in their season to fundraise for TCBF. (More details on the particulars of May Day, Any Day can be found here.)
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, TCBF adapted the application process to accommodate the increased need from the community. During the year 2019, TCBF had given out $12K+ in grants. Between March and July of 2020, that number increased to over $150k. And by the one-year mark of the pandemic, the organization had granted over $250K in financial relief.
TCBF was only able to make this type of impact because of the outpouring of support from the community. Recurring and one-time donations rose significantly during this time, individuals used their creativity in developing and promoting products for the benefit of TCBF, and a number of online fundraisers happened via Zoom and Facebook. Even when in-person venues remained closed, the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre was able to host a special Zoom edition of the Boston Theater Marathon, which resulted in many donations to TCBF and increased visibility for the Fund and its offerings.
We continue to fund those suffering from unexpected COVID-related emergencies, while also refocusing back on non-pandemic catastrophes.
Board of Directors
TCBF is run by a diverse volunteer board made up of people from within and outside of the theatre community of Greater Boston and the surrounding areas. We are a working board composed of directors, managers, designers, performers, and administrators of varying ages, races and genders. Above all, we are activists and advocates who believe strongly in serving the community via TCBF and are proud to do so. The current members are:
- Alex Lonati, President
- Julie Streeter, Vice-President
- Ilyse Robbins, Clerk
- Karen Perlow, Treasurer
- Joseph Antoun
- Sarah Newhouse
- Maurice Emmanuel Parent
- Brian Robinson
- Robert Saoud
- Cheryl Singleton
- Alexandra Smith
- Kira Troilo