If Gilbert Godfrey taught me anything (other than that there’s a comedian more annoying than Carrot Top) it’s not to joke about Japan. But as a group of Chicago performers are proving, singing for Japan is not only acceptable, it’s laudable. When Catalyst Ranch HR Manager and Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Associate, Danny Bernardo heard about the tragic earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, he knew he had to find a way to help.
Says Bernardo, “I was saddened and terrified, distressed [by] the fact that support for disaster relief efforts in Japan are significantly lower than that of recent tragedies like the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina. So after days of gloomy discussion, I was inspired last Monday morning to put this fundraiser together.”
With the instant support of Catalyst Ranch owner, Eva Niewiadomski, “the whole team hit the ground running.” Bernardo wanted to recruit “top-notch talent,” but expected a challenge given his timeframe. However, says Bernardo, “every actor I called pretty much said yes on the spot, busy schedules and all. Within twenty-four hours, we had a cast, a catering sponsor, Big Delicious Planet, and the first acquisitions for a silent auction.” Since then, the event has gained support from sponsors such as Crown Imports, ChicagoPride.com, and Jackie Rada, of the band Modern Conversation.
Dubbed “Harmony. Hope. Humanity,” the cabaret-style event will benefit The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s efforts to support Japan. Co-emcee and musical performer Keith Uchima says that as part of a “very talented community of Asian American artists who search and hope for meaningful work,” he was happy to take part in the benefit. Erik Kaiko, recently seen in Bailiwick’s "Departure Lounge," adds, “the entire theatre community in Chicago, Asian and otherwise, has an incredible amount of initiative and passion. It really feels like a small town, where everybody looks out for one another and supports each other’s work and ambitions.” Kaiko will sing "Anytime (I Am There)" by William Finn while Uchima plans to perform his original song "Tomorrow Must Be Kind.” The song he says, though personal, will be dedicated to “the heroic efforts of those men working to cool nuclear power plants.”
Also participating in the fundraiser are Joseph Anthony Foronda (part of the second national tour of "Miss Saigon") and Christine Bunuan who toured with the first national production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Bunuan says she was drawn to the event because her “skills are mostly in performing. I really wanted to do work that will not only inspire our community but also reach out to the world.” Bunuan will perform several selections including "Human Heart," from “Once On This Island.” Says Bunuan, “this song is perfect for this event. We come in all different colors, shapes and sizes and have lived all types of experiences but at the end of the day, "we are part of the human heart."
“Harmony. Hope. Humanity.” Will be held at Catalyst Ranch on March 27. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception, followed by performances at 6 p.m. There is a $25 suggested donation. Go here for more information or to donate.
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez