OC Theatre Guild establishes new relief fund for theatre artists

The Lemon


The OC Theatre Guild is one of Orange County’s newest non-profit arts service organizations. They are now taking on the admirable task of raising funds for Orange County theatre artists who have been significantly financially impacted by the recent closures of theatres and performing arts venues across the county.

In mid-March, a small committee under the OC Theatre Guild set about the task of seeing what could be done to help raise money for local theatre artists. The guild drew inspiration from similar relief funds established by writer and activist Ijeoma Oluo and her Seattle Artists Relief Fund, and the Chicago Artist Relief Fund. Remarkably, by the end of the month, the OCTG rolled out the OC Theatre Artist Relief Fund, specifically designed for theatre artists affected by venue closures due to the government mandated quarantine for COVID-19.

Amanda DeMaio, OC Theatre Guild President, shared “while the virus caused the theatres to close, it also forced closures of many other venues where our artists work. Many of these artists have multiple jobs which normally afford them the flexibility they need to continue to be able to perform in smaller theatres and other non-union theatre jobs, and almost overnight all of that was shut down. While some businesses may be able to re-open soon, many of the jobs that artists rely on are in the entertainment and hospitality arena, and they are still closed.”

The fund was thoughtfully constructed to be available to all those theater artists who had to stop work and are not getting paid, including those who were on contract, part time employees and those working on a stipend which was not paid.

“As part of the theatre community, and as an individual member of the OC Theatre Guild, I’m excited to play a role in this kind of fund raising. The OC theatre Guild serves such a vital part of the arts community, and I’m seeing first-hand the difference we’re making with the funds we’re raising,” says Katie Chidester. “Everytime we’re able to send out a relief check, we see the difference it makes to those who we’re helping.”

“When they get a check, they (relief fund recipients) reach back to us with such gratitude and humility. They are so grateful for getting the financial help, and even more grateful that in many cases, we’ve been able to get the funds to them just in time” says DeMaio.

Angela Griswold, one of the recipients in the first round of disbursements shared on social media “I received an unexpected and incredibly generous donation from [OCTG] just yesterday, that’s going to help more than they know until unemployment clears and we can receive additional government stimulus, etc. I’ve worked with many of their board members throughout the years, from community theatre productions outside of high school when I was just 18 to professional contracts and gigs. They are an assemblage of some of the best, kindest artists out there, and in this time of job uncertainty/hold for performers, I simply can’t thank them enough.”

Jazmin Pollinger, a relief fund recipient and stage manager who has worked at many OC theaters, reached out to the Guild to say “This money will help me pay my bills and make my rent this month! Thank you for starting this fund and helping as many artists as you can. I hope one day to be able to help people, like you all are.”

Hoping to get additional exposure for the relief fund, a number of OC Theatre Guild members have supported the OCTG by participating in a promotional video to share online. Local actress and donor, Michelle Miller-Day who urged for donations by reminding people of the stakes, “I think it’s really important to give back, when I can. I’m looking forward to going to the next show, to feed my soul again. Because I think we all need it now.”

Donor April Skinner shared “I don’t join groups, and I’m not a member of the OC Theatre Guild – but I don’t have to be a member to know what they are doing is important. These people need help, and I’m lucky enough to be in a position to help – so that’s what I do. I help.”

Right now, the Guild has more applications for need than available funds, which is why the Guild is continuing to reach out to the greater Orange County community to ask for donations of any amount. “Our goal is to continue to help as many theatre artists as possible” shared DeMaio, “The assistance we can provide is based solely on the amount of donations we receive. This is why we are asking for help! Help us get the word out to the community, not only for artists but for donors too. The more donors we get, the more artists we can help, and we already have a waiting list of artists that have applied for assistance.”

As donations come in from individuals, matching corporate gifts, and local
businesses, the Relief Fund Committee for OCTG meets weekly to make
disbursements to artists. Applications are reviewed objectively by a panel of volunteer board members from OC Theatre Guild. 100% of contributions will be allocated in support of the artists who apply to the fund. No volunteer receives any percentage. Although priority will be given to artists who reside in Orange County, artists in the surrounding areas are welcome to apply as well. Currently relief checks are being granted with a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $1000 to each individual artist.

Donations to the OC Theatre Guild Relief Fund are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law (EIN #83-3995441) and as mentioned on their website, the Guild is committed to keeping this relief fund open as long as artists have financial needs related to the outbreak of COVID-19 and as long as donations are being

To donate, please visit OCTheatreGuild.org or directly to their secure donations page HERE.

For more information please contact Jeff Lowe, OC Theatre Guild Council member
via email at council [at] OCTheatreGuild [dot] org or by phone at (657) 549-4707.