That’s what friends are for

Friends Janet Arnold and Ed Asner perform a reading of "Advanced Chemistry" to benefit Arizona Jewish Theatre Company

Like many arts organizations, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company has faced financial challenges in recent years. But executive director Janet Arnold has a friend in renowned actor Ed Asner, who graciously performs here periodically to support Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s work.

Most recently he treated Valley audiences to a reading of Rich Orloff’s “Advanced Chemistry,” a pair of plays about “love, lust and longevity” at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. The event helped Arizona Jewish Theatre Company raise funds needed to continue their season with “The Blessing of a Broken Heart” — a work they’re dedicating to former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Tucson.

But now it’s Asner who needs our help. Asner has both a son and grandson with autism, and says the issue “really hits me at home.” Asner describes the organizations Autism Speaks as “the main focus of my family’s charitable efforts.”

Will Asner and Charlotte Luckerman in a photo shared by Matthew Asner

Asner’s son Matthew serves as executive director for Autism Speaks in Southern California. “He is on the front lines,” says Asner, “fighting for our kids and others like them.” Ed Asner is eager to both improve the quality of life for children and adults with autism — and to “find a way to stop it.”

Asner has four children. Twins Matthew and Liza Asner, and Katie Luckerman, are in their 40s. Charlie Asner is in his 20s. His oldest grandchild, Jake Asner, is 11 — and the youngest, Charlotte Luckerman, is just two. There’s also Will Asner (age 9), Gabriel Luckerman (age 8), Grant and Helena Asner (7-year-old twins), and Sam Luckerman (age 5).

His passion for supporting families living with autism was clear when we chatted by phone a while back, soon after the American Psychiatric Association released information about proposed criteria for autism spectrum disorders — which Asner and other autism advocates worry will mean less help for individuals and families living with autism.

Jake Asner self-portrait, shared by Matthew Asner

Folks eager to join Asner in fighting for autism research and increased public awareness can donate to Asner’s “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” team — which is participating in the “10th Annual Los Angeles Walk Now for Autism Speaks” on April 21. Or click here to join his “Asner’s Avengers” online.

Those eager to participate on the local level too can support the “Arizona 2012 Walk Now for Autism Speaks” as well. It takes place Oct. 28, and is being presented in partnership with the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center.

Both Autism Speaks and SAARC offer plenty of ongoing opportunities to learn more about autism and ways to support families living autism. SAARC presents a free screening of HBO Film’s Temple Grandin” at Studio Movie Grill in Scottsdale Feb. 21 (click here to register because space is limited).

Walk. Watch. Donate. Volunteer. Write to legislators. Learn more. And listen. That’s what friends are for.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Arizona Jewish Theatre Company — which is home to Curtain Call Youth Theatre (which holds auditions for “Annie” on March 5) and All Rights Reserved teen improv troupe (which presents a teen improv festival on Feb. 26), plus a variety of special programs and events.

Coming up: Ed Asner talks arts in education, Once upon a peacemaker

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One response to “That’s what friends are for

  1. I have no idea how you find time to see eeevvverryytthiing! Thanks for the info on the Autism walk–I would love to do something like that! 🙂

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