Joe Benincasa is who I would call the Mayor of Broadway. He’s a friend and champion of everyone involved with Broadway. As President and CEO of the Actors Fund, he oversees the human services organization that helps people in the entertainment and the performing arts, a role that has taken on heightened importance in these challenging times.
Heading South to Bucks County, PA with Joe Benincasa
Joe takes us on a trip from New York City to his undergraduate city of Philadelphia through the back roads of New Jersey and Bucks County, PA.
Where: What city are you in these days?
Benincasa: I feel like I’m perpetually in Zoom or WebEx lands. But, really, I’m just outside of Lambertville, NJ close to the Delaware River although I’m in and out of our NYC and Englewood, NJ offices quite a lot.
Where: What was the last theater-related project you were working on before the pandemic?
Benincasa: In my role with The Actors Fund, I was and haven’t stopped overseeing our services for people, and not just actors, in performing arts and entertainment. It’s my passion and I’ve been doing this since 1988. I oversee our senior and affordable housing residences and help with financial assistance, social and career services, health care and health insurance. The Actors Fund is a lifeline to people in crisis and transition like now.
Where: We are certainly proud of the achievements of the Actors Fund. Broadway is so important to New York City as are all of the performing arts and artists. What can you tell us about what the community looks like right now?
Benincasa: People in the creative community are the most resourceful, hard-working and imaginative people in the world. Everyone, no matter his or her job, is an artist. And despite everything, everyone is still creating. Supporters like Rosie O’Donnell, Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley have rallied their celebrity friends and innovated how we raise funds by live-streaming efforts on a variety of platforms. All this has helped establish an emergency COVID-19 fund that goes beyond our usual efforts.
Where: I’m sure you need a break every so often. When you have a chance to leave the office with your wife for some road trip relaxation, where would you go and what cast album would you listen to along the way?
Benincasa: I always return to my undergraduate city of Philadelphia taking the back roads through Bucks County. It’s bucolic and there are lots of stops for dining, antiquing and culture. It’s hard for me to choose one album because I love them all. But I would listen to The Fantasticks.
Where: What is your favorite song?
Benincasa: It may sound a little corny but I have a broad appreciation for “Try to Remember,” a perfect love song, sung by the incomparable Jerry Orbach. The simple complexity of all the songs in the show absolutely knocks me out.
Where: Would you sing along?
Benincasa: Definitely! And, if I’m not driving, I sometimes join in with my guitar. My kids moan when I do that.
Where: Where are you stopping along the way?
Benincasa: This is a beautiful drive and I would stop at the Sergeantsville Inn, a great restaurant on the Jersey side of the Delaware River, just before Bucks County. It’s a beautifully renovated stone structure with fireplaces and a wine cellar. And, it’s across the street from the Sergeantsville General Store that sells dumplings prepared by émigrés from China. If you’re interested in the arts, you should spend some time in Doylestown to learn about the famous tiles from the Arts and Crafts movement.
The Road Trip
Sergeantsville Inn – the historic stone inn in Sergeantsville, NJ welcomes guests for lunch and dinner with a wide-ranging menu of casual dishes and entrees.
Sergeantsville General Store – a gem of a general store in a gem of a town, the go-to is their amazing vegetable dumplings. People make a pilgrimage here just for those. There’s also ice cream, more Chinese food, and the usual general store kind of stuff.
A Dose of History
Moravian Pottery and Tile Works – a National Historic Landmark in Doylestown, PA, this is a “working history” museum where handmade tiles are still produced in a manner similar to the one developed by the pottery’s founder and builder, Henry Mercer.
Fonthill Castle – the castle showcases Mercer’s life legacy with an especially intriguing collection of handcrafted ceramic tiles designed at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement. The castle has 44 rooms, more than 200 windows and 18 fireplaces.
Mercer Museum houses the collection of artifacts from archeologist Henry Mercer
Pearl S. Buck House – the gorgeous stone farmhouse of the author of The Good Earth is a National Historic Landmark open to visitors. More relevant than ever, Ms. Buck’s writings helped create intercultural understanding by focusing on marginalized people and advocating for the civil rights movement. You can also wander the grounds, visit the greenhouse and meander through the gardens.
Find out what Joe and the Actors Fund are doing next at www.actorsfund.org. Follow on twitter @theactorsfund or Facebook.