Denver Actors Fund in Action: Russell Costen

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Russell Costen as Big Daddy in The Edge Theatre’s 2013 production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Photo by Rachel D Graham / RDGPhotography.

Note: At the Denver Actors Fund, anonymity of aid recipients is presumed and fully protected, unless and until the recipient chooses to have his or her story told.

Russ MUG 400Financial-aid recipient: Russell Costen, a 69-year-old veteran of stage, screen and the U.S. Army, has appeared in many local productions since moving to Denver in 1999, including of late “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (as Big Daddy), “Tell Martha Not to Moan” for the Athena Project, the Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate” and the LOCAL Theatre Company’s new-play festival. Russell grew up in Boston and appeared in the classic Milos Forman film “Hair.” (He can be seen in the number “White Boys.”) While serving in the U.S. Army, he played Walter Lee Younger in a military production of “A Raisin in the Sun” in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that was attended by Leonard Bernstein. In 1985, Russell was praised by the most feared theatre critic in America for his work in the Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s “Fences” in New Haven, Conn.: “Russell Costen is particularly formidable as the beatific Gabriel,” wrote Frank Rich of The New York Times. Russell has performed everything from Camus to Pinter, but his greatest pride to date has likely been playing the lead in “Othello,” singing with the Denver-based Spirituals Project and starring in the one-man play “Paul Robeson.” He also was part of the cast of the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Jitney” and “The Little Foxes.” Russell has supported his dream to perform along the way working as a concierge, security officer, sales agent, human-resources director and a teacher of English as a second language. Russell is also a prolific playwright whose first play is called  “Prisoner,” in which one character advises another to “take care of the memories. Take care of the dreams.”

DAF His story: Russell was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and in August underwent surgery to remove part of his lung. He has been recovering at the Denver V.A. hospital for more than a month, and is expected to be released in two weeks. He welcomes visitors at the hospital (1055 Clermont St., Denver, 80220, 303-399-8020). Please call Russ on his cell at 303-564-9975 before visiting.

How we will help: The Denver Actors Fund’s by-laws limit the Executive Director’s authority to approve a grant of more than $499 without the majority approval of the Board of Directors. Given Russell’s  situation, the board has unanimously approved a $1,134 grant to pay for two months of rent and other miscellaneous expenses. In addition — with Russell’s full permission — a group of Denver Actors Fund Action Team members led by Angela Astle have endeavored over the past month to transform Russell’s low-income apartment with a makeover that will give him a healthy and holistic environment to come home to and recover in. “Team Russell” includes Abby Angell, Angela Astle, Carol Bloom, Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, Sam Gilstrap, Betsy Grisard, Megan Fevurly, Clint Heyn, Devon James, Cajardo Rameer Lindsey, Susan Lyles, Lara Maerz, Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Shannon McAndrews, Billie McBride, Melissa McCarl, Sharon McClaury, Debbie Weinstein Minter, John Moore, Beki Pineda, Onna Poeter, Amelia Retureta, Eric Ross, Sean Scrutchins, Maggy Stacy, Cate Wiley and Kathi Gibbs Wood. When Russell is released from the hospital, these people and more from DAF Action Teams including Meal Delivery, Transportation, and Errands are standing by to continue our support for Russell in his recovery.

A message from Russell: “Isn’t it extraordinary when people can offer you such extraordinary generosity, love and affection, which you never even knew existed or asked for? Such kindness! Such kindness! Thank you.”

To help us help Russ more: If you would like to donate to the Denver Actors Fund, see below. If you would like to direct a specific donation to Russell Costen, mail checks in his name to Denver Actors Fund, 4594 Osceola St., Denver, CO 80212.

Read more Denver Actors Fund testimonials by clicking here


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The Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in medical need. In addition to financial relief, a team og more than 60 Denver Actors Fund volunteers offers good neighborly assistance including meal prep and delivery, child care, transportation, errands, construction, pet-sitting and more. For more information, visit our web site at www.DenverActorsFund.Org


To DONATE the Denver Actors Fund: Please go here (with our humble thanks):


To apply for Denver Actors Fund aid: Fill out this brief online form here




Send checks made out to the Denver Actors Fund to:
4594 Osceola St.
Denver, CO 80212



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Video: See highlights from a Feb. 10 fundraiser held on behalf of the Denver Actors Fund: