The year of the Dragon is 2012. While considered by most to be a fire-breathing monster, in traditional Eastern philosophy it's actually a creature of intense power that delivers great fortune. For my friends and business partners, as we produce this year's Hollywood Rush, the year's significance only deepens the already intense emotions and sacred memories of our loving brother and dear friend Hunter Allen, who's nickname was Baby Dragon.
The name Baby Dragon (bestowed by his sister and our producing partner, Zibby Allen) marked Hunter's persona. He was equal parts fiery passion and fragile vulnerability. In 2008, Hunter took his own life after a long and painful battle with an addiction to crystal meth.
Crystal meth is the powerful, deadly man made drug that causes near immediate addiction and leads to physiological and psychological dependence. The addiction is fueled by an intense ability to accomplish more, increase sexual prowess and hold onto a powerful surge in confidence. That power, though, is short lived. Soon after that first "try," users need more and more of the drug to maintain those feelings.
The cruel irony of meth is that while it starts off as a means of doing and feeling more, it ultimately leads to the ability to do less -- like less showing up for work, family, friends and eventually life itself.
Meth is also considered a "survival drug" amongst many misplaced and homeless youth, and in particular, gay youth. It keeps a person alert, awake and able to participate in "survival sex" in order to stay fed and alive.
Meth addiction across the country, and in particular Los Angeles, is rampant. Crystal meth addiction and the destruction that surrounds it is a serious, deadly problem. So when Hunter passed, Zibby, along with friends and family, wanted to do whatever necessary to prevent another life being lost to this deadly disease. They established a fund, aptly naming it "The Baby Dragon Fund," knowing it takes more than love to survive the brutal grip of addiction and mental health issues.
The Baby Dragon Fund fuels the crystal meth addiction-recovery, mental health and youth service programs of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. These programs, under the helm of Mike Rizzo, provide ongoing group and individual support for meth users. Sometimes they provide a roof. Often, they are able to provide a glimmer of hope.
Due to increased government cuts to funding, the addiction related programs at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center repeatedly face the chopping. The Baby Dragon Fund today operates as the primary source of funding for these services.
With this in mind, we got together to brainstorm ways to bring more awareness and money to the cause. We called upon some amazing friends and spent many a night around our dining room tables to create the Hollywood Rush -- a benefit for The Baby Dragon Fund. The event brings together a group of about 40 celebrities (writers, actors and directors) to write, rehearse and perform a series of 10-minute plays in front of a live audience all inside of one day.
We knew that if we wanted to raise money and awareness fast, we'd have to get names behind us. We first called upon our celebrity friends for the favor, emailed everyone we knew for support, hemmed and hawed over the logistics, and eventually, what started out as a small idea became a phenomenal turnout of talent, supporters and attendees.
The first annual Hollywood Rush was a hit -- a ridiculously entertaining evening for a worthy cause. Heavy hitters like Matt Weiner, Silvio Horta and Christopher Landon wrote all night, creating brilliantly funny one-act plays. Directors like Adam Shankman and Matthew Lillard worked effortlessly with a cast they had just met in a dining hall while five other teams rehearsed simultaneously. Stars like Yeardley Smith, Jamie Lynn Sigler, RoseMarie DeWitt and Jonathan Bennett had a mere four hours to learn lines and perform in front of a packed house in plays that covered everything from a gay online dating experience gone hysterically awry, to a musical about a severed penis and the genie that lived inside it.
That night last February grossed $85,000 for The Baby Dragon Fund. So we're doing it again. The 2nd annual Hollywood Rush promises to be bigger, better and funnier than last year. (No pressure guys!) Sponsors like Toyota Financial Services, Marchez Vous shoes, Wells Fargo Foundation and Avaya are back for another year. Returning talent like Lillard, Smith and Sigler want at it again. And new talent like Chad Hodge, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, David Krumholtz and many more have signed up to participate in this exciting, one-night-only event.
Dragons are too mystical for this world and possibly so was Hunter. What has come out of his devastating death is hope for so many addicts who go to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center seeking help, hope that someday The Baby Dragon Fund will help fully conquer this deadly disease, and hope that this year's Hollywood Rush raises an incredible amount of money to do so.
We hope to see you there.
JASON H. KENNEDY, ZIBBY ALLEN and KATE PAYNE are executive producers for The Hollywood Rush. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, go to www.hollywoodrush.org. It starts at 7 p.m. on February 19 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. VIP tickets include complimentary valet, premiere seating and access to the cast wrap party at the adjacent Wilshire Ebell Clubhouse. Also, donations to the Baby Dragon Fund are welcome at www.thebabydragonfund.com.