GOPAR Helps Performing Arts Workers After Ian – Central Florida News – Spotlight

A memorial screening of “Ladies of Eola Heights” (original LR cast: Doug Bowser, Sam Singhaus, Michael Wanzie and Tommy Wooten) was the most recent fundraising event for GOPAR. The screening and streaming service was in memory of Bowser and Singhaus, who both passed away recently, Singhaus in 2020 and Bowser in 2022.



Central Florida has many employees in the theme park and performing arts industry. And sometimes, circumstances beyond their control — like a hurricane or a pandemic — can hit them hard, if event venues close and audiences stay home.

Enter GOPAR – Greater Orlando Performing Arts Relief. It is an organization dedicated to helping people who work in the performing arts industry where traditional safety net programs may fail.

GOPAR’s Laurel Clark tells WMFE’s Nicole Darden Creston that the relief group is activated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Laura Clark:
We know there was a lot of impact with Ian due to lost pay – everyone was closed for a few days. And some people have experienced personal disasters. And GOPAR is always available for people to apply if they’re into the performing arts, and that includes onstage or offstage. And we just want everyone to know that we’re fully funded right now, and we have money available if you need it.

Nicole Darden-Creston:
So what did you do to get the information you have? I see you link performers to resources. How did you find these resources?

Laura Clark:
When we first formed in 2020, for the pandemic, we partnered with St. Luke’s [United Methodist Church] and St. Luke’s is a church here in central Florida that helps other organizations distribute funds, and that’s how we’ve been distributing our funds all this time. They also have community resources. So when you apply to GOPAR, they are the ones who check the applications and then distribute the money. As of now, we’re becoming our own 501(C)(3), and when that’s over, we’ll be doing it ourselves here in Central Florida.

Nicole Darden-Creston:
I saw the links to [performing-arts-related aid organizations] that help performers. Did they have that information, or did you?

Laura Clark:
We were doing. We had contacted the Actors Fund to see if in the future we could partner with them and be part of their organization as they have a similar thing to what they do in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. And we are currently talking to them about being part of it. They changed their name, that’s why it looks different. It is now the Entertainment Community Fund. And they generously offered – we’re so thrilled – they generously offered to provide assistance to Central Florida. This information can therefore also be found on our web page, gopar.org.

Nicole Darden-Creston:
Tell me how and why GOPAR started.

Laura Clark:
GOPAR was born out of a gathering of theater professionals that happened at the start of the 2020 pandemic. We were all in touch, trying to figure out how and when all theaters would reopen. And we quickly realized that there would be a need for financial assistance for our community. We were going to be down for a long time. So a group of about 12 of us split up and formed GOPAR. And it’s not really “broken” because these theaters are still in partnership with GOPAR. And we were able to distribute [more than] $82,000 during the pandemic, to our artists in need. And we say “performing arts” because we want people to realize that it’s not just about actors. They are also the backstage technicians, the directors, anyone who has made money in the industry in the past couple of years can ask for help.

Nicole Darden-Creston:
You mentioned partner organizations, tell me about Pass the Hat [fundraising program].

Laura Clark:
Pass the Hat was amazing. And that’s why we still have money even though we’ve already given a lot. The Orlando Shakes passed the hat and were able to raise $13,967 for GOPAR. A very similar amount was raised by the Garden Theater under the direction of Joseph Walsh. And then St. Luke’s raised money for us. We even had “Play in a Day” with Beth Marshall Productions – they gave us tickets with their receipts and raised funds for us. Ensemble Company at Penguin Pointe and Theater South, there have just been many of our partners who have passed the hat or given us the proceeds of their ticket sales to provide funds for the Orlando community.

Nicole Darden-Creston:
So there are one or more shows that they designate as Pass the Hat shows and donate some of that money to GOPAR.

Laura Clark:
Right.

Nicole Darden-Creston:
I understood! Now, of course, you don’t have to give me names, but do you know any artists in central Florida who are dealing with one of Ian’s side effects – flooding in theaters or something like that ?

Laura Clark:
Well I think the important thing to say here is…we have a bigger problem in that I think people are hesitant to apply because they don’t want people to know they need assistance. And it’s completely private. I have no idea who requested and received funds. I will never know. This is how we do it. And I also think it’s important to note that we’re not just Central Florida like Orlando, we’re “Greater Orlando”, which includes Lake, Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Osceola, Brevard counties and Polk. So that means if you work at Legoland, you can apply. It stretches all the way to Volusia and we all know our west coast has been badly affected, and I think there’s still a lot of flooding there. So I just want everyone to know that the funds are available and if you’re having any issues right now with lost wages or a medical emergency due to Hurricane Ian – and it doesn’t have to be due to the he hurricane is also there for personal issues that may arise as an entertainment professional to contact GOPAR.