Caring for a Community: Season of Concern

Its crucial efforts to give care, comfort and hope to those whose talent and skill have become a hallmark of our city.

“When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a hard time asking for help. I was in denial about how much the next several months of treatment (chemo, surgery, another surgery,
more chemo, radiation, then oral chemo) would impact my life, much less my ability to work. I am so grateful to Season of Concern for helping to alleviate some daily costs of living: rent, public transportation, medical supplies.” —Director, 34

Following your performance of A Christmas Carol, you will be greeted by cast members collecting donations in any amount for a good cause: Season of Concern (SOC). Created three decades ago by Chicago theater artists, SOC was a response to the AIDS crisis and its devastating effect on members of the Chicago theater community, by providing financial assistance to those who were battling catastrophic illness. Virtually all of the funds that SOC dispenses each year come from individual donations—with the longest-standing contributions from audiences at Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. To date, donations have totaled nearly $500,000—amply reflecting the spirit of generosity that lies at the heart of this holiday classic. In addition to audience donations collected by Chicago theaters of all sizes, funds come from actors and other artists who contribute to SOC in lieu of opening night gifts for one another; participants in the SOC team in the annual AIDS Run and Walk; and attendees at SOC’s annual spring benefit cabaret concert (held April 9, 2018, at the Goodman).

“I was in the hospital for more than five weeks after an operation that incurred complications. I was unable to pursue any work for at least two months after returning home to recuperate. The Biscotto-Miller Fund grant covered my condo assessment bill for several months. I am so grateful to the organization that I contribute each year to help others when unforeseen health issues arise. Thank you for being there for me.” —Actor, 69

In recent years, SOC has expanded its range of support, and now gives tens of thousands of dollars annually to provide financial relief for those in the performance industry dealing with a wide range of life-threatening illnesses and injuries: actors and designers, directors and playwrights, technicians and craftspeople and anyone else who works in Chicago’s thriving entertainment industry. This important assistance comes through SOC’s three primary funding programs:
• The Biscotto-Miller Fund, named in honor of two early victims of the AIDS crisis, Goodman stage manager Tommy Biscotto and actor J. Pat Miller, who played the Ghost of Christmas Past in the first production. Funds have been used by individuals for a variety of expenses not commonly covered by insurance plans or other forms of assistance: housing care, meals, medications, legal assistance and personal financial support.

• The Actors Fund of America, the national human services organization that provides a broad spectrum of assistance programs for professionals in a wide range of arts and entertainment forms.

• Finally, SOC has distributed more than three million dollars to local organizations providing services for people living with HIV/AIDS— including Legal Council for Health Justice, giving to individuals facing devastating legal issues as a result of their illness; Heartland Alliance’s Vital Bridge Program, providing life-sustaining services (meals, nutrition counseling and housing assistance); and Center on Halsted, which offers free confidential HIV/AIDS testing, prevention planning and supportive case management for those who have tested positive.

“I was performing in a show out of town when I suffered an off-stage injury that cost me the rest of the run of the show, as well as required surgery and a few months of rehab. Season of Concern helped pay my rent… I felt incredibly lucky to have a resource dedicated to helping out folks in our theater community here in Chicago— something I never thought I would need until the unexpected happened.” —Actor, 26

Chicago’s theater landscape has changed dramatically since 1985, both in size and maturity. Many artists from that era have continued to ply their trade in Chicago, and are now part of a distinguished older generation of theatermakers; they have been joined through the years by thousands of younger artists, many of whom have established their own careers. Although the specter of AIDS has diminished in intensity through the past three decades, its presence is still felt; and the aging of the theater community has inevitably caused myriad increasing medical challenges to many of its members. As the vibrancy and activity of our local theater industry continues to grow, so too does the need for the unique forms of assistance provided by Season of Concern—and its crucial efforts to give care, comfort and hope to those whose talent and skill have become a hallmark of our city.