Back in 2008, I made the move to New York City to finally pursue my acting career here. And after a couple of years of doing regional work, though, I was looking for more opportunities that could keep me in the city. So I went to the Actors Fund (now called the more generic Entertainment Community Fund and featured on previous episodes), and at that time they offered assistance to actors looking to beef up their non-performing resume. I talked with someone about places I’d work at in the past, and she asked if I had considered approaching non-profit organizations. Of the ones I looked through, the one that stood out to me was a children’s charity called Only Make Believe. I sent them an email and setup a time to meet with a woman named Melissa who was in charge of their volunteers at the time. That was in March of 2010, and what began as a few hours here and there of volunteer office help led to part-time work as their Media Consultant and assisting with their gala and other marketing efforts.
And all of it was the idea of one woman: Dena Hammerstein. She started out as a British actress who eventually came to the US, met and married into a famous Broadway family, and began producing shows here in New York. In 1999, Dena established Only Make Believe, and every November since 2001 they have held their annual gala to raise funds and awareness for the work they do. In the last episode you heard from Joe DiPietro about his beginnings with the organization, but today you’ll hear from the founder herself in this encore presentation of our conversation back in 2018 for a special segment of this podcast called The Spotlight Series. At the time Dena was still head of the whole organization. We talk about her early years as a TV and film actress in London and then what led her to establish Only Make Believe.
Find out a bit more about Dena's early years in TV and film: IMDB
Giving Dena a Better Episode
When this interview was originally recorded back in 2018, I only had one microphone and guests and myself would sit on either side of that mic for the interviews, so audio quality wasn’t that great. For this episode I’ve been able to go back and improve that audio quality as best I can, thanks in part to the financial support of listeners like you.
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Also in 2020, as the pandemic was upon us and Dena was spending more and more time in London, it seemed the appropriate time for her to step aside. So I’ve edited this conversation (using better software, thanks again to listener support) as a reminder of her legacy and the important work she has left to a new generation of capable leadership as they carry on Dena’s vision for years to come.
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