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, appeared in many local productions after moving to Denver in 1999, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (as Big Daddy) and “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 was likely 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 supported his dream to perform through the years by working as a concierge, security officer, sales agent, human-resources director and a teacher of English as a second language. Russell was also a prolific playwright whose first play was called “Prisoner,” in which one character advises another to “take care of the memories. Take care of the dreams.”

His medical story: Russell was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2014 and  underwent surgery to remove part of his lung. He spent six weeks recovering at the Denver V.A. hospital.

How we helped: The Denver Actors Fund Board of Directors unanimously approved a $1,334 grant to pay for two months of Russell’s rent and other miscellaneous expenses. In addition – with Russell’s permission – a group of Denver Actors Fund Action Team members led by Angela Astle endeavored over more than a month to give Russell’s low-income apartment a makeover to give him a more healthy and holistic environment to come home to and recover in. “Team Russell” included 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 was released from the hospital, these people and more from DAF Action Teams continued 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.”

Update: Russell died on October 3, 2018, from a recurrence of lung cancer. Read more about his extraordinary life here. The Denver Actors Fund paid $900 toward Russell’s funeral expenses, bringing the total financial value of our support for Russell to $2,234.

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 of 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 DenverActorsFund.Org


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




Send checks made out to the Denver Actors Fund to:
P.O. Box 11182
Denver, CO 80211



Sept. 29: Miscast 2014, Directed by Robert Michael Sanders at the Aurora Fox. Click here for details and tickets.

Dec 8 and 15: “BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular” will perform at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret. Click here for details and tickets.



Denver Actors Fund


poster1.4_Cross 134 women (and a few token dudes) from the Colorado theater community, all supporting the Denver Actors Fund. They cost $20 per poster (20×28). To order, email your quantity to We’ll take care of delivery and payment from there.





Click here to see how you can buy DAF products such as T-shirts, key chains, puzzles and much more


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


Denver Actors Fund launches Action Teams, Web Site


The Denver Actors Fund, named Wednesday the recipient of a 2014 Westword Best of Denver Award, is today announcing several major initiatives. Most significantly, the DAF is officially activating its 2014 Action Teams. That’s an Army of Angels who will provide good-neighborly assistance to any qualifying member of  the local theatre community who seeks it.

bodThe Denver Actors Fund is also today launching its new website at www.DenverActorsFund.Org. The new web site will make applying for financial aid or other assistance easier and more immediate than ever. And finally, the Fund is announcing the addition of a fourth board member. Paul Dunne, a local performer and Vice President of Development for the Kempe Foundation, has raised millions of dollars in donations for nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Here’s more information on each of these exciting developments:

2014 Action Teams Launched

dafarmyIn December, the Denver Actors Fund began distributing financial assistance to members of the local theatre community in situational medical need. Since then, the Fund has assisted four artisans including two actors, one director and a props specialist. Overall, the Fund has raised about $13,000 in its first 10 months of existence, and currently it has about $10,000 in the bank.
Today, the Fund is officially moving into “Phase 2” of its implementation. More than 60 volunteers all along the Front Range have stepped up to create Action Teams that are now  standing by to provide assistance in the following areas:

Errand Runners (Shopping, deliveries, housecleaning, chores, pet-sitting, etc.)
Meal Preparation and Delivery (Preparing meals, snacks or desserts and delivering them to home or hospital.)
Transportation (To and/or from appointments, work, family gatherings or wherever you need to go.)
Construction (Installing ramps, railings, safety equipment in the home or where required.)
Babysitting (Providing child care so you can work, run errands or take care of personal business.)
Personal Company (Spend time with you at home or in the hospital; read, play games, visit, etc.)

Whatever the need may be, however big or small, our volunteers are ready and eager to assist.
They are standing by to help right now. To apply, click here.

To qualify for financial assistance, the applicant must have been a resident of the Denver metro area for at least the past six months and have worked on at least one theatrical production in the past five years. (The Fund plans to eventually expand its eligibility borders.) To qualify for neighborly assistance, the Fund already also has volunteers prepared to serve applicants from northern Colorado as well. When in doubt, apply.

The head of the Denver Actors Fund Action Teams in Shannon McAndrews of Betsy Stage. Here is a rundown of her individual Action Team Leaders:

Errand Runners: Susan Lyles of And Toto Too Productions
Meal Preparation and Delivery: Kristen Samu
Transportation: Onna Poeter
Construction: Robert Michael Sanders
Babysitting/Child Care: Trina Magness
Personal Company: Maggie Stillman of Ripple Effect Theatre Company

In addition, here are additional Team Leaders:

Event Planning: Shannon McAndrews
Event Food and Beverage: Rhonda Brown
Donor Acknowledgement: Sarah J. Hom
Tap Shoe Initiative: Gloria Shanstrom
Marketing and Media: Gloria Shanstrom
Social Media: John Moore
Web site: Deb Flomberg

Here is a complete rundown of all Action Teams and their individual members

Denver Actors Fund launches new web site today

The Denver Actors Fund is proud to announce today’s launch of www.DenverActorsFund.Org as its new online home. There, you can directly apply for aid, discover all the Denver Actors Fund has to offer to anyone in the theatre community in need, and keep abreast of the Fund’s upcoming fundraisers and community-building events.

The web site was conceived, designed and launched in its entirety as an in-kind contribution from Deb Flomberg of DenverMind Media. Flomberg is a co-founder of the Equinox Theatre Company.

Key web-site links:


Paul Dunne added to Denver Actors Fund Board of Directors

Paul Dunne is an ordained minister and a vice president with the Kempe Foundation, a world leader in the fight against child abuse and neglect. Inspired by the need to serve after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Paul joined the nonprofit sector as a Senior Development Officer for the Denver Rescue Mission. He also served as Executive Director of Development for the Inner City Health Center, where he quadrupled donations in a three-year period before leading a $5.5 million campaign for a new clinic. Paul has assisted a variety of nonprofits in their fundraising needs, including the North Hawaii Community Hospital and Ability Beyond Disability. As a background singer, Paul has performed with Peter Cetera, Shania Twain and John Tesh. He has also performed on many of  area stages, including the Town Hall Arts Center.

Dunne joins current Denver Actors Fund board president Christopher K. Boeckx, treasurer Amy Malmgren and Secretary Sarah J. Hom. The Executive Director of the Denver Actors Fund is John Moore.

2014 Westword Best of Denver Award

On Wednesday, Westword recognized the Denver Actors Fund with a 2014 Best of Denver Award for “Best Display of Theatrical Community.” Here is what Juliet Wittman wrote about the Fund:

John Moore, the onetime Denver Post theater reviewer who now works at the Denver Center, started the Denver Actors Fund last year to help theater people with medical crises. The goal, he says, is “immediate, situational relief” in cases of “great and sudden medical need.” The amounts of money aren’t huge, but they’re enough to cover wheelchair rental, for instance, or other medical supplies — and anyone who has lived in the area six months or more and worked at a theater in some creative capacity is eligible for help. Moore’s idea galvanized the theater community: Several companies have donated a percentage of ticket revenues, other supporters have mounted benefits; and there’s an online merchandise store selling posters, puzzles and T-shirts. Moore is now staffing action teams with volunteers who will run errands, plan meals, organize fundraisers and help with needed construction projects, such as ramps and railings.

And finally …

The Aurora Fox has announced that it is bringing back “Miscast,” a popular annual fundraiser started by the late Next Stage  Theatre Company and later continued by the former Paragon Theatre Company. It will return on Sept. 29. Robert Michael Sanders and John Moore have been asked to direct, with all proceeds going to the Denver Actors Fund. More information on that happening will be announced when it becomes official.

Find us!

Denver Actors Fund on Facebook
On Twitter: @DenverActorsFun

Photos: My night at Betsy Stage’s ‘The Travesty of Lear’

To see caption information on any photo above, or to see the gallery on a mobile phone, click here. (It will be on the lower-left corner.) Or just click “show info” on any photo.

By John Moore
Nov. 22, 2013

Welcome to my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the official “Opening Nights” photo series (these are outtakes), click here.

Opening No. 135: Betsy Stage’s “The Travesty of Lear”: There’s a new theater sheriff in town, and she’s doing things a little differently. Shannon McAndrews is the general manager of the Betsy Stage (not to be confused with Boulder’s BETC, also colloquially referred to as “Betsy”) and get this — the shows are all free. Always. AND the actors even get paid. Decently, even. How do they do it? There’s a benefactor, McAndrews says. A benefactor with a kingdom, apparently, to partition out, only her kingdom is funding for the making of art. The company’s mission is to “adapt Elizabethan theater for a new audience.” Here, Shakespeare’s “King Lear” is set in the Old West. Lear is the owner of the Scarlet Slipper Saloon. Here he divides his kingdom by putting his three favorite prostitutes to the loyalty test. The script is rife with one-liners, but mostly sticks to Shakespeare in tone. They call in “Shakespeare spiked,” but it’s more like Shakespeare with a “Deadwood” ear. You may recognize some of the names — Phil Luna and Kevin Lowry, for example, but even those you might not recognize make for a pretty decent ensemble. Starring Michael Vasicek as Lear and also featuring Patti Murtha, Brooks Mullen, Michal Andrea Meyer, Jacob Abbas, Todd Simmonds, Elinor Reina, Jeannie Saracino, Jim Hitzke and R.J. Harris. Directed by Samantha McDermott. Again, all tickets are free … really … and the bar is even run on the honor system. Please call for reservations, or email — though you won’t be turned away if you don’t. “The Travesty of Lear” plays through Jan. 25. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays at 1133 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or go to betsy’s home page. Thanks: Jennifer McCray.


OPENING 135SMBW Pictures of pictures of cast members arranged on a lit lobby tree. Not pictured: Kevin Lowry.


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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Funds raised for the late Doug Rosen donated to Denver Actors Fund


The late Doug Rosen with his friend, Sarah Roshan. Funds donated in Rosen’s name are being redirected to the new Denver Actors Fund.

By John Moore

Sarah Roshan established a fund in 2009 to help Denver actor Doug Rosen battle cancer. The local community responded, so much so that Rosen never got the chance to take advantage of the funds raised before he passed away.

Even after Roshan assigned about $2,700 of the $3,000 the Rosen campaign had raised from individual contributions to help fellow actor Shelley Bordas’ cancer fight, the account had a small surplus.

This week, Roshan decided to pay it forward, giving the last $220 to the new Denver Actors Fund.

“His wish was that his money be used for theatre folk in need for medical expenses,” said Roshan. That is exactly why the Denver Actors Fund was created earlier this year: As a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Roshan’s gift brings the  balance of the Denver Actor’s Fund to about $3,600.

When Rosen was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, he was told he had, at most, two years to live. He made it almost 25, during which he founded “To Life LIVE,” a series of performances for patients hospitalized with AIDS. Rosen died in 2009 at age 43. Here is my tribute piece to Doug Rosen.

The Denver Actors Fund is planning its third community-wide gathering under the motto, “raising funds while building community.” New Advisory Council chair Shannon McAndrews is planning a DAF Halloween costume party for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at the Avenue Theater, 417 E. 17th Ave. More information on that party is coming tomorrow.

Board president and local actor Christopher Boeckx, who just passed the bar exam, said he will make an announcement that night about the date the DAF can officially begin taking applications for aid.

Fund volunteers plan to offer assistance to those in need in ways that go beyond monetary — including meal preparation, construction, time-sharing and, eventually, transportation.

Boeckx has undertaken the arduous legal process of qualifying the DAF for 501(c)3 non-profit status. But he said all donations now made to the Fund are already fully tax-deductable.

For more information on the Denver Actors Fund:

To donate directly to the Denver Actors Fund:


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