The student-led University Theatre group at West Chester University is busily planning their 20th annual benefit event to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, a New York-based non-profit that provides services to those living with AIDS and HIV. Performances are staged in the Mainstage Theatre at the E.O. Bull Center for the Arts, 2 E. Rosedale Ave., West Chester. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors at www.wcupatix.com. Performances are Friday, December 6, and Saturday, December 7, at 7: 30 p.m., and Saturday, December 7, and Sunday, December 8, at 2 p.m.
The student directed and produced benefit is a funny and often moving mix of variety show-style acts interspersed with facts and stories about HIV and AIDS. It has become a well-attended event and a campus highlight each season.
Accompanied by a small pit orchestra, audiences will enjoy Broadway songs, including the ever-popular “Showtune Showdown” when they get to choose the winner (this year between Greased Lighting or Footloose) by throwing $1 into a bucket to cast a vote. Each class in the Department of Theatre & Dance performs, as well as various campus groups including the a cappella group High Street Harmonix, the Swing Dance team, the Irish Step group, and the Improv Group.
Producer Josh Waltz, a senior Theatre major from Delaware, and Chris Yingling, a senior Education major from Bucks County, have been affiliated with the event since their Freshman year. Waltz is the producer of this year’s event and Yingling the director.
Says Waltz, “I think Broadway Cares was chosen as the beneficiary for this event because of their natural tie to the theatre community. Over these last 20 years we have come to know the administrators and the organization quite well. I love supporting them and being a part of this event. It is worth all of the hours and effort.”
Tom Viola, the Executive Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, says, “We are so grateful for the passionate and hardworking students at West Chester University, who have raised more than $120,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids over these last 20 years. These tenacious and dedicated students are leading the charge of young people creating advocacy and action through the arts. Their creativity, good will and commitment to social justice is the wind in our sails upon which we all will ride into the future.”
New this year is alumni participation in the show. About 33 alumni – from 2003 through 2018 - will perform.
Director Chris Yingling says, “We wanted to reach out to alums since it is our 20th Anniversary benefit. Our alumni helped build this event and we can’t wait to welcome them back to campus.”
In total, the event will involve approximately 120 West Chester University students and alumni.
“The thing I like best,” says Yingling, “Is the teamwork aspect of collaborating together for a shared goal. I love how we all pool our talents for the good of something greater.”
Yingling adds, “We want our audiences to first enjoy the show, but we also want them to leave having learned something new. Ultimately, we are doing this to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, the stigma around it, and to encourage people to help.”
A silent auction is held in the lobby prior to each performance with many items donated by the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids office in New York. Items include Broadway memorabilia like posters from Broadway shows that are signed by the cast, tickets to theatres in Philadelphia, and restaurant gift cards. Blankets, scarves and other handmade items are also part of the auction.
The West Chester event is one of the largest outside sources of funding for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Last year’s benefit raised over $17,000 in proceeds from the auction, ticket sales and donations, the highest amount raised in the event’s history.
For information on Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids visit www.broadwaycares.org.