January 28th, 2013, Toronto…. This year marked a new record for payroll donations at the long-running Ontario theatre festival. With a large percentage of cast and crew participating, $15,587 was raised to help provide aid to members of Canada’s entertainment industry. Donating through payroll has long been a tradition at Stratford, but as awareness of the Fund and its work has increased in recent years, so too has the number of people who have used their stable employment situation to help those who have not been so fortunate.
Participation in the program came from both actors and members of I.A.T.S.E. Local 357 who work as stagehands, carpenters, wig and makeup personnel and drivers at the Stratford Festival. “We recognize that supporting the Fund is a team effort” said Local 357 member and payroll donor Neil Dennison. “Despite its name, the Actors’ Fund is there to support all of us working in this industry, so it is important that we in turn support it when we have the opportunity.” Actor Nigel Bennett explained his reasons for donating through payroll, saying “The life of an artist can be incredibly unstable; you move from one contract to the next, sometimes with large gaps in between. Working a long season gives you a security which allows you to give to the charities you care about on a regular basis. Payroll is the simplest way to give; you don’t notice the amounts on a weekly basis, but at the end of the season you know you have made a contribution you can be proud of.”
The Actors’ Fund is the lifeline of the Canadian entertainment industry. Performers and others who work behind the scenes in film, television, theatre and dance are eligible for emergency financial aid from the Fund, which receives no government funding and relies wholly on support from individuals and industry organizations. The Fund is a registered charity that has paid out more than $4.6 million in rent payments, groceries, utilities and medical bills in the last 10 years.
David Hope, The Actors’ Fund of Canada