Already suffering with LONG-COVID, as well as Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD, I am now ill with a second bout of COVID. Unable to work, but not (yet?!) able to get Disability, I’m raising recovery and living expenses.
I have recently suffered a second acute COVID infection, atop a years-long slog through LONG-COVID from an infection early in the pandemic.
The debilitating effects of these physical ailments have compounded —and been compounded by— my extant long-standing struggles with diagnosed Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (with panic and social anxiety), and (c)PTSD.
These conditions have made it all but impossible for me to work. But they are also the kinds of conditions that are difficult to qualify officially as disabilities.
And the PUA money that sustained me for some time has run out
So I’m appealing for your support.
In the short-term, I’m hoping to raise $2,000 very quickly. That’s $1,500 to cover immediate rent and living expenses, so I can remain housed. Plus $500 to purchase a new computer to replace my now defunct one, so I can manage the necessary applications, correspondence, records, research, etc for recovery and resources.
In the medium-term, I’m hoping to raise ~$5,000, for medical and mental health treatments not covered by my insurance.
In the longer-term, I am hoping to raise a total of $64,307.
I’ve chosen this large and oddly specific goal, because there is another major factor that has led me to the dire straits in which I find myself. And in fact without this factor, I would likely be quite capable of managing my mental and physical health issues, as well as my own living expenses, “on my own,” as it were.
However, poverty has plagued me my entire adult and adolescent life, as it did my family for most of my childhood.
Part of this is mere accident or incident. My father’s alcoholism, leading to my parents’ divorce, and to his death, when I was only 10 years old. My mother’s Depression and migraines, her struggles to get and maintain steady and gainful employment diring my childhood and early adolescence, and the consequent housing and food insecurity. Having to work to help pay for rent, food, utilities, clothes, school supplies, etc, from age 14 on. No family money for college, or for “getting started,” or any kind of safety net to fall back on. And my own struggles with Depression, which started at age 13, though would not be formally diagnosed until many years later; thanks to the dearth and/or expense of mental health care in the US for those without abundant resources. Plus massive uninsured emergency medical bills, from multiple incidents in my youth.
That shit follows a body well into adulthood.
But even those things might well have been managed, healed, possibly even overcome; given the kinds of opportunities and assistance and benefit-of-the doubt I was often lucky (and, let’s face it, cis and male and white) enough to be granted in my young-adult life.
What cannot be overcome, however, is being paid unethically and even illegally low wages for one's labor by employers. There is no damage that can heal, nor any disadvantage that can be managed, when one is spending the majority of their waking hours laboring for the benefit/profit of other individuals, companies, or institutions, while being compensated less than it costs to pay for even the most basic, rudimentary necessities; when being compensated less than the legally required minimum wage; when being compensated nothing at all.
Leastways, not if there isn't family money, stability, and safety net there to make up the difference.
Not only can no damage be healed, no disadvantage managed or overcome under such conditions, but more damage is done: cumulative financial, physical, and psychological damage.
I’m going to share here a —if not THE— major source of such cumulative and ongoing damage in my life; something that I have spoken of with certain individuals in private many times over many years, but which I have been too cowed to fully address publicly, for [entirely justified] fear of [further] stigma, reprisals, and even retaliation from and within a “community” whose life-blood is precisely such exploitation; a "community" which tends overwhelmingly to deny, dismiss, and/or demonize anybody who speaks out against such exploitation, or who simply fails to sufficiently mask its profound negative effects on them.
41 of the 46 professional productions in which I have performed during my career (if indeed you can call it that) have paid me less than the federal minimum wage at the time of employment.
Teaching at multiple institutions of higher learning —including the alma mater for which I still owe loans, plus compound interest and penalties, that I will likely never be able to pay off— paid me a full-time equivalent just shy of the federal poverty line.
To be sure, the many many many other “day jobs” I have taken over the years to try to make ends meet have also almost all terribly exploited, mistreated, and even abused me, mostly for far less money than it costs to be okay in this country. However, only one of those non-theatre/theatre-ed jobs ever actually paid me less than the legal minimum wage.
But, again, 41 of the 46 professional theatre productions in which I have performed paid me less than the federal minimum wage at the time.
Among employers in the professional performing arts, sub-minimum wages are the norm.
As are many other legally questionable labor practices, all variously rationalizing and dissembling the mass under-compensated, and frequently outright uncompensated labor expected and demanded of most performers and many other workers, at/for pretty much every professional theatre company, no matter how big, how well-funded, or how much money there is to spend on increased production values, administrative salaries, company/program/season expansion, and capital improvements.
So, after combing my memory and journals and records, I’ve calculated, to the best of my ability, the total income and total hours worked on each/all of those 41 sub-minimum-wage productions for professional theatre companies.
[Mind you, I’ve only included “on-the-clock” hours in these calculations: that is, time spent actually in rehearsal and performance. In reaching the figure for this fundraiser, I have not included any of the required, but always wholly uncompensated, preparation and “homework” hours involved in any of these 41 productions —usually an additional time/labor investment more-or-less equal to the number of hours spent in rehearsal; though it can be as much as twice that for especially large and/or difficult roles.
Neither have I included any of the hours spent on the more than 100 wholly uncompensated staged-readings, workshop productions, understudy roles, showcases, fundraisers, or other special events in which I have performed for professional theatre companies. Such events are technically voluntary, but unofficially absolutely mandatory to gain and maintain inclusion in the hiring pool for any even meagerly paid work.
I also have not even attempted to calculate the number of unpaid hours spent advising students, directing extracurricular student projects, devising new courses, and other expected professorly duties above and beyond the meagerly compensated hours actually paid under adjunct contracts, as a teacher in theatre arts programs at extraordinarily expensive and well-funded institutions of higher learning.]
I’ve used these figures to determine the aggregate difference between what I was actually paid by professional theatre companies for those 41 professional productions, and what I would have been paid had each and all of those companies paid me just the federally mandated minimum wage at the time of my employment. [That is, $4.25/hr back when I had my very first professional acting job in the mid 1990s, $5.15/hr during the busiest years of my performing career in the early-to-mid oughts, and $7.25/hr for everything since 2009.]
So, $64,307 may seem like a huge amount of money to ask for “for free.”
And I suppose it is.
But it’s literally the absolute minimum I have already technically, legally earned, via thousands of hours of labor, that my employers in the performing arts simply excused themselves from the obligation to compensate.
Thus, $64,307 is a symbolic number, as well as a practical one. And it’s the least I need to really and truly be okay and get my life back on track, after years of covid, and decades of mutually reinforcing employer-enforced poverty and mental health issues.
But it’s not necessary for me to reach anywhere near that final goal for your donation to help. Literally any small amount will be accepted gratefully, and could keep me from homelessness.
As I said before, funds I receive as part of this campaign will initially go to keep me housed in the short-term, and toward replacing my computer. That short-term goal is $2,000.
After that, funds will go toward recovery/medical expenses, and continuing living expenses while I recover. That medium-term goal is $5,000.
And anything beyond that, up to the $64,307 final goal, will be used for continued recovery and living expenses, and to try to re-establish some kind of life over the next few years. What that looks like will depend on the extent of my recovery, whether and how much I am able to eventually work, whether I qualify for disability, and cetera.
It will also depend on the extent of your kindness, generosity, and support.
If I am able to pay my modest living expenses during this crisis, recovery, and transition period, I’ll be able to build something decent, better for myself.
If not, things will get much worse, pretty quickly, and I’ll be far less likely to recover, materially or medically.
Please give what you can.
Any amount will help.
Can’t donate? Please share. Even a quick share on Facebook can help.
The average share raises $97.