By day, Dr. Stephen Cohen is an optometrist but by night for about 15 years, he has taken the Desert Foothills Theater stage to perform lead roles in upwards of 20 plays.
Although he has retired from live theater, Cohen continues to support local arts organizations, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“The arts add so much to our quality of life here in the Valley, and we want to make sure they stay viable for the time when we can again all gather,” Cohen said.
On Oct. 23 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Doctor My Eyes optometrists Cohen and Dr. Amanda Goldberg will host the “Show Must Go On” fundraiser.
As part of the one-day fundraiser, Cohen and Goldberg will donate all proceeds from eye exams, glasses, contact lenses and more to Valley Youth Theatre and Phoenix Theatre.
“I thought about what life will be like when we return to some sense of normalcy and one of the areas that is not getting a lot of attention is the arts because of the fact that it’s harder for them to raise money,” Cohen said.
The theater companies are grateful.
“I would thank Drs. Cohen and Goldberg for reaching out to support us with this fundraiser. It is a blessing, and we are so grateful,” said Valley Youth Theatre Producing Artistic Director Bobb Cooper.
According to Cooper, Valley Youth Theatre has “virtually no income coming in,” and the funds raised by the optometrists will help keep the organizations’ staffs working on “productions, innovations and procedures for the upcoming months.”
“It will help us transform our live events into virtual events, concerts and streaming,” Cooper added.
Phoenix Theatre Company will use the donations to support their Partners That Heal program, which spreads joy to adult and children in hospitals via improvisation and structured play.
“They now provide remote, live virtual visits to hospitals around the Valley, and even internationally,” said Phoenix Theatre Director of Patron Advancement Julia Haase.
Haase added that the fundraiser will also support a safe reopening and building their outdoor venue.
Phoenix Theatre Company and Valley Youth Theatre are just two arts organizations left shuttered and struggling to stay afloat due to COVID-19.
Not only did Phoenix Theatre Company pause their shows for the first time in their 100-year history due to the pandemic, but they were also forced to furlough their part-time staff and much of their full-time staff.
Phoenix Theatre Company employs nearly 50 full-time arts administrators and artists.
“Instead of grappling with the question ‘how do we move forward?’ we knew we needed to take action—for our staff, artists, patrons and community. We had to think creatively,” Haase said.
That’s how the idea of the outdoor venue came about.
Opening this fall, Phoenix Theatre Company’s outdoor venue will host two plays, “Happy Birthday Dionne” from Nov. 10 to Nov. 22 and “UNWRAPPED: An Original Christmas Revue” from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23.
“Through the hard work and dedication of our staff, we’re able to plan for an outdoor venue. But it’s only possible because of the support from our community. We’re still here because of our community supporters; they’re the ones that lift us up,” Haase said.
Valley Youth Theatre also canceled all performances, classes and camps due to COVID-19.
And they, too, found a silver lining.
Valley Youth Theatre working with Hospice of the Valley, various veterans groups and New Song Center for Grieving Children. It also hosted the successful virtual, nine-hour VYTal Affair-athon in August.
During the online telethon, 116 alums from the past 32 years performed for a nine-hour period; and award-winning actress and VYT alumna Emma Stone donated $32,000.
“[Stone] reiterated again that she wouldn’t be where she is now if it wasn’t for VYT,” Cooper said.
But the arts organizations could still use the help.
“It will be a tough road for the arts, most likely not in person until Spring 2021,” Cooper said. “If you have a love for the arts, we are going to need the support more than ever and we appreciate your love and support.”
While Cohen didn’t set a specific fundraising amount for the in-office appointments, he said what’s most important is raising awareness.
“Spreading awareness about the impact COVID-19 has had on the arts; It’s something I wish we heard more about,” she said.
“Every industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and the arts are struggling. Phoenix has a vibrant arts community, if we want to keep it that way, we need your support!”
Appointments are required and can be made by calling 480-513-3937.
Those unable to make an appointment can still make a tax-deductible donation to the event through Doctor My Eyes’ GoFundMe “The Show Must Go On.”
As of Oct. 14, the optometrists raised $400 of their $1,000 goal on GoFundMe.