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Some of the most popular actors in the local stage scene come together for "Arts Unite." 

A Dream Lineup

Tamara Hubbard sounds sheepish as she explains how the theater event, "Arts Unite," came about. "It's really kind of hokey," she admits. Hubbard is an actress who has appeared in several local theater productions, most notably as the shy June Sanders in "Sanders Family Christmas" at the Swift Creek Mill Theatre last winter. It was during the run of that show that she became inspired. Hubbard remembers, "I woke up one morning and realized I had had a dream. In it, all of my theater friends were on stage together. And I started to think, 'Wouldn't it be great to gather all the talent in Richmond and do one big show?'"

The tall, All-American-looking actress is also a former VCU health education major and so was very familiar with the work of the Fan Free Clinic. She realized that doing a benefit for the clinic would be good for the community as well as turn her dream into reality. "I just put two and two together," says Hubbard.

The sum of Hubbard's work will be the show "Arts Unite," hosted by the Barksdale Theatre, with all proceeds going to support the Fan Free Clinic's AIDS education efforts. The unique evening of entertainment will recreate scenes from some of the most popular musicals ever produced in Richmond. For instance, the four actors who made up the doo-wop singing group The Plaids in the Mill's hit 1999 production of "Forever Plaid" will reunite to open the show. The stars of "Dreamgirls," the Motown musical that played Dogwood Dell just a few weeks ago, also will make an appearance. A rousing finale including more than 40 performers is planned.

"Arts Unite" comes on the heels of a similar show held at the Firehouse Theatre in August also for the benefit of the Fan Free Clinic. That show, organized by the 9:55 Club comedy troupe, mixed stand-up comedy with performances by local musicians. Director of Development at the clinic, David Howie, says that, while numerous benefits have been held to support the clinic over the years, "it is interesting that these two came so close together." Howie asserts, "The arts community in Richmond, just like nationally, has been very supportive of the kind of work we do here." The clinic has developed a wide range of services for victims of HIV/AIDS, from a food pantry program that provides meals to an outreach program called the Richmond AIDS Information Network (RAIN).

Hubbard says people have leapt at the chance to get into the act. She called Steve Moore, the now-local comedian and veteran of many network TV shows, and says, "I barely got the words out of my mouth, and he said, 'yes.'" Moore will emcee the Friday night performance. Actors have even been willing to jump through logistical hoops to make it to the benefit. Paul Deiss, one of The Plaids, is currently appearing in "See How They Run" at the Mill but doesn't come onstage there until the second act. So he'll do the benefit, then speed down to Colonial Heights to make his entrance. "The work people have put into this … it's pretty phenomenal," says Hubbard.

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