Thursday, April 18, 2013
Curtain to rise on Act Three of Broadway Blessing
I am pleased to announce the curtain will rise for the 16th annual Broadway Blessing on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. at its new home, The Church of the Transfiguration, commonly known as The Little Church Around the Corner, on 29th between Fifth and Madison This free interfaith service of song, dance and story, which yours truly, Retta Blaney, founded in 1997 and has produced ever since will be supported by the church and the Episcopal Actors’ Guild, which is celebrating 90th anniversary.
I will be lining up performers for this year’s Blessing in the months to come, so check this blog for updates. Among those who have participated in the past are Lynn Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen, Boyd Gaines, Edward Herrmann, KT Sullivan, James Barbour, Three Mo’ Tenors and Broadway Inspirational Voices.
This is Act Three for Broadway Blessing, which began in midtown with congregations from St. Malachy’s/The Actors’ Chapel, The Actors’ Temple, St. Clement’s Episcopal Church and St. Luke’s Lutheran before moving in 2006 to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for a six-year run. The Actors’ Temple and St. Clement’s have remained a part of Broadway Blessing from the beginning and will be part of this year’s event at The Little Church.
The Broadway Blessing Choir, now under the direction of Claudia Dumschat, The Little Church’s music director, will return and -- it is hoped -- Project Dance as well.
It’s appropriate now for the Blessing to continue at Transfiguration, which celebrates its 165th anniversary this year. This historic Episcopal parish has a long history of ministering to those in need, having sheltered escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad and African-American families during the Draft Riots of the Civil War.
What makes it a particularly apt new home for Broadway Blessing, though, is its tradition of welcoming members of the theater profession, something not common in the churches years ago. Transfiguration’s welcoming attitude toward actors earned the church its nickname, The Little Church Around the Corner, a name that dates back to 1870 when Joseph Jefferson, famous for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle onstage, had requested a funeral at another church for his fellow actor and friend, George Holland. Upon learning that the deceased had been an actor, the priest refused. At that time many considered actors to be unworthy of Christian burial. After some prodding by Jefferson, the priest commented, “There is a little church around the corner where it might be done.” Jefferson responded, “Then I say to you, sir, ‘God bless the little church around the corner.’”
The church has maintained its close ties to the theater, serving as the national headquarters of the Episcopal Actors' Guild since its founding in 1923. The facility itself was designated a United States Landmark for Church and Theater in 1973.
The mission of the Episcopal Actors’ Guild is to provide emergency aid and support to professional performers of all faiths undergoing financial crisis. It is also dedicated to helping emerging artists advance their careers through scholarships, awards, and performance opportunities. It was founded in 1923 and incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) charity in 1926.
The primary program of the Guild is its Emergency Aid & Relief Program (EARP), giving grants to performing artists in financial crisis regardless of faith, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability or language. More than 95 percent of all performers helped by the Guild live in one of the five boroughs of New York City. The Guild addresses such crucial issues as eviction, housing court stipulations, utilities shutoffs, emergency medical and dental costs, and sustenance needs (including food and transportation).
It prides itself on being one of the only agencies able to provide immediate emergency financial assistance, when necessary. When a qualified applicant contacts the Guild in crisis, they can receive a vendorized check the same day.