Updated April 30, 2020 - 3:53 pm
Mondays Dark has always partnered with Las Vegas charities.
The Actors Fund has always been a national organization based in New York.
You might notice a disconnect there.
But the Mondays Dark livestream telethon is using the $122,000 raised Monday night to link Vegas entertainment professionals with the 138-year-old nonprofit organization.
More than 50 entertainers, including such stars as Shania Twain, Wayne Newton, Brad Garrett, Olivia Newton-John, Joey Fatone of N’Sync and Debbie Gibson donated their time to the live event. Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis delivered a $25,000 donation near the top of the show. Actors Fund Chairman of the Board Brian Stokes Mitchell spoke on behalf of the organization early in the program.
The resulting support takes the form of one-time, $1,000 grants for qualified applicants. Las Vegas entertainers are directed to The Actors Fund’s national website at actorsfund.org/am-i-eligible-help. Las Vegas requests are reviewed by reps in The Actors Fund’s Western Regional offices in Los Angeles. The entire process takes about two weeks.
Mondays Dark founder Mark Shunock has said throughout the planning and performance of the event that all of the money raised during the 6½-hour event will stay in Las Vegas. But only after a virtual cross-country trip. Those donations will be distributed through The Actors Fund’s national website, which offers assistance to entertainment industry pros everywhere in the U.S.
Shunock says Mondays Dark needed The Actors Fund’s infrastructure to organize and move all that money back to Vegas.
“Our small team does not have a built-in mechanism to handle the complicated process of distributing funds to individuals and families in the Las Vegas performing arts community,” Shunock says. “That’s why we partnered with The Actors Fund, which offers a social safety net and so much more to performers and industry workers across the country.”
Actors Fund Director of the Western Region Keith McNutt put it succinctly: “People in Las Vegas need to know we’re not taking 25 percent from the money raised Vegas and giving it to Houston, or something like that. This $120,000 or so is going back to Las Vegas, for at least 120 individuals — and I can’t fathom there aren’t more than 120 people in Las Vegas who need help.”
True. There are certainly hundreds. And to qualify, Vegas applicants are required to show entertainment industry earnings of more than $6,500 for three of the past five years; dancers must document three years of earnings of at least $2,000 a year. Entertainers are required to turn over such documents as union pension and health statements, W-2 or 1099 forms. Vegas is a heavily 1099 (or “gig” worker) city; applicants don’t need to be union members to qualify.
The organization also asks for a current lease, rent or mortgage statement. If none are available, produce a household bill with updated name and address.
McNutt says that information is taken to identify those in every region who are seeking help.
“We are tracking the number of people from Las Vegas, and making sure that money goes to them,” McNutt says. “We’re not just assisting 120 people. Once (the Mondays Dark) funding is exhausted, the Las Vegas applicants default to The Actors Fund relief fund.”
That fund has raised $20 million nationally just since March 13, about equal to The Actors Fund’s annual budget.
Monday’s fundraiser will establish a stronger relationship between the city and organization, beyond the telethon event. McNutt says Shunock has expressed interest in eventually heading up an Actors Fund office in Las Vegas.
“Mark has asked about that,” McNutt says, emphasizing that the start of such a partnership would first require further communication between Las Vegas reps and officials in the L.A. office. “I hope this gets the word out, right now, about what we do. I’ve had people say, ‘I wish I’d known about you when I broke my leg, or needed money for my rent.’ This will help our awareness. But what form that takes is really up to the people in Las Vegas and how they want to take it forward.”
Former “Jersey Boys” Music Director Keith Thompson has a 30-year history of supporting The Actors Fund dating to his days in New York. Thompson, the co-founder of The Composers Showcase of Las Vegas, understands the organization and the widespread need for assistance.
“Some people might find the process invasive, but it helps prevent people who are just trying to grab money from wherever they can,” Thompson says. “There is a reason you have those requirements, and that’s to make sure the right people are receiving the money. Their mission is to help.”
Through The Composers Showcase nonprofit, Thompson has also established the TCS Community Relief Fund at thecomposersshowcase.com. Entertainers can also hit that site now to seek aid.
Thompson has donated to charities throughout his career and recalls officials with The Actors Fund meeting with the “Jersey Boys” cast and crew to outline support options the night the show closed at the Paris Theater in September 2016. Reps have visited other Vegas productions as they closed, including “Rock of Ages” at the Rio (the show that brought Shunock to Vegas).
Such outreach is common for The Actors Fund. It’s just not commonly broadcast.
“I trust them,” Thompson says. “It’s the first place I would go for help.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.