More about the Emergency Needs for the Theater Artists Community FUND

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Debbie Litch in Curtains
  • Debbie Litch in "Curtains"
I received this email from Randall Hartzog P.R. Director for Theatre Memphis. It's got a lot more information about the medical relief program I mentioned yesterday.

Theatre Memphis has set up a community fund to aid and assist volunteers and staff of the Memphis theater community who are in medical or specific social financial distress or need. The account is called the Emergency Needs for the Theater Artists Community FUND. The process to receive funds will be monitored and applied by a committee appointed by Theatre Memphis and will be open to the entire Memphis theater community as defined by the committee. Each award of cash will be reviewed on an individual basis with the priority going to medical needs and assistance.

“This is a need that presented itself when one of the community’s cherished and beloved actors, Jo Lynne Palmer, suffered a stroke and has absolutely no insurance, at no fault of her own,” says Debbie Litch, Executive Producer of Theatre Memphis. “To create an entity that can support our community that gives so much to us with their time and talents is just another small way we can show our appreciation.”
The account is set up to receive specific donations to specific calls for need and will be used as a general fund only when the donations over exceed the immediate medical or social need that has been requested. All payments will be made towards invoices or bills submitted by the recipient and approved by the Theatre Memphis committee. Litch adds, “Though this may not cover all the bills that may come in for an individual in need, it can certainly help and be a concerted way to gather these funds quickly by having a fund already in place.” Brent Davis, Executive Producer at Germantown Community Theatre, was involved in the creation of the idea to create this fund when an actor’s illness directly affected a stage production at Germantown Community Theatre. “It was one day after opening night of our production of the Fantasticks and Jo Lynne (a cast member) suffered a stroke. The production went on with a stand-in, but what really mattered was that we care for her. When we learned that she was uninsured, I reached out to other Memphis theaters for help. This incident was a real wake up call for me and really pointed to a gap in our community that no one had filled … so many artists give of their time and talents in the theater community and we recognize that we need to pull together when actors and other volunteers can’t help themselves.”

Davis called Litch to discuss the matter and found that she had already started the wheels turning on a similar idea. Since Theatre Memphis already had certain systems in place, it made sense for Theatre Memphis to handle and funnel the funds. Palmer has been a long time volunteer actor at Theatre Memphis, her most recent role as Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy in 2010. “Of course these funds

Jo Lynne Palmer as Miss Daisy
  • Jo Lynne Palmer as Miss Daisy
will be made available for primarily medical emergencies based on need and will be funded by the public after a call for help is sent out,” Litch continues. “It truly is going to be a vehicle to be able to organize an effort like that quickly and be easy to apply the help for an immediate need.”
To donate to the fund, cash, checks or credit cards are accepted to Theatre Memphis, 630 Perkins Ext, Memphis, TN, 38117, with a designation for the Palmer Account. To contribute, call 901.682.8601 or look for a link at www.theatrememphis.org to pay through Paypal. There will also be links on other theatres websites that will direct you to the Paypal screen for payment.


This is a fantastic idea, and long overdue. Playhouse on the Square has a history of making affordable insurance—something of an oxymoron some might say—available to its professional company members and interns. The Tennessee Shakespeare Company employs unionized actors. But the overwhelming majority of Memphis's community players are volunteers and freelancers who give a lot of their time and talent for little, and in most cases, no money. Standing O to all involved.

To donate visit http://www.theatrememphis.org/palmer/

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