In many ways, Joe Benincasa keeps the theater alive. As the President and CEO of The Actors Fund, he provides social services, employment, housing and healthcare to performing artists around the United States. Because of Joe's unwavering dedication to the men and women of the theater, he received a Tony Honor for Excellence last Season. As the new theater season begins, Joe is as busy as ever. Luckily, we got him to take a few minutes On the Couch!
What do you consider to be your best asset?
What was your proudest moment?
Besides every moment with my wife, Nancy, and family? Being sung to at the record-breaking, Tom Schumacher produced Actors Fund gala. Ashleigh Brown and Gavin Lee, with our Board Chair Brian Stokes
Mitchell, sang a special version of “Jolly Holiday” – with lyrics by Rick Elice – recognizing my 25 years of leadership. And, yes, my family was in the audience. And then to receive a Tony Honor – these were two out-of-body experiences.
What is your favorite drink?
I once had a glass of Ann Colgin's 2005 Cabernet. Wow! It was very different from my Nona's, but that was good, too.
What is your favorite food?
Peach Greek Yogurt in the morning, popcorn in the evening – every kind of cereal with soy milk.
What is your favorite condiment?
Poured Dijon Mustard.
What is your current obsession?
Human creativity trumps baseball, but I love baseball at every level.
If you could give up one of your vices, what would it be?
Staying up way too late and getting up way too early.
What is the one professional accomplishment you long for most?
A legacy that The Actors Fund is financially stable, growing, responsive and respected 50 years from now, when I am a 114 years old.
What is the one thing you waste too much money on?
I don't think Nancy or I waste money, but we love theatre, travel, indulging the family and are generous to good causes like The Actors Fund.
What is the one activity you waste too much time doing?
Worrying, about just about everything.
What do you consider to be the single greatest threat to your health?
Playing full court Basketball.
What is the single best trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
Enjoying interaction with people.
What is the single worst trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
Wanting everyone to be happy.
What in the world most thrills you?
First, being with my wife, Nancy. And, honestly, the world – with all that's good and not-so-good – waking-up thrills me. A fantastic thrill: the birth of my grand-daughter, Ava Isabel. (Life's not perfect and a not-so-good thrill was witnessing a rare game-ending triple play with the Mets losing to the Phillies.)
What current trend in popular culture most irritates you?
I really don't get reality television. But I wonder why I don't get it.
What was the single most embarrassing moment you've ever experienced on the job?
Coming off the tee at the Actors Fund Golf & Tennis Outing for our Nursing Home with a 10 foot drive. I did better with a five iron on the second shot.
What is your favorite place in the world?
There are so many. Maybe it's The Shubert Theatre as the lights dim and the curtain goes up.
What is the most important trait you seek in a romantic partner?
An appreciation for imperfection and a positive attitude.
Do you prefer the company of dogs or cats?
We had dogs, cats, bantam chickens and ducks. We currently have two fantastic rescue dogs: Samantha and Pringle, and we adore them. (Bernadette Peters put us onto Samantha at Broadway Barks.)
What would have to happen to make today the best day of your life?
Impossible to say. Every day, even bad ones, are the best days. (But, maybe a big gift to make The Fund's proposed $21.5 Million nursing home expansion a reality – that would be great.)
What is your personal motto?
When I became head of The Fund amidst financial turmoil, I made a sign which still sits on my desk. It's a Harry Truman slogan: “Don't Fight the problem. Solve it.” I think that it's truism our staff lives by. I know I do.