With President Donald Trump and his allies in the GOP Congress looking for ways to block the ability of low-income women and men to turn to Planned Parenthood for their sexual health concerns, the organization is bracing for a rough year ahead.
So supporters of Planned Parenthood have assembled a different sort of fundraiser this weekend to ensure the organization has the resources it needs to fight back against plans to defund the organization's work to provide cancer screenings, birth-control services, STD testing and other health care.
The Very Big Show (Of Support!) is a massive variety show featuring circus troupes Flam Chen and Cirque Roots; laughs with Arizona Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and Unscrewed Theater; music from Desert Voices chorus vocalist Katina Murphy, mariachi performer Diana Olivares and house band Michael P. and the Gullywashers; and a whole bunch of mimes, clowns, jugglers and much more. There's even an appearance by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who has some experience being the ringleader of a local circus.
The whole jamboree goes down at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at downtown's Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.
Tucson's most beloved drag queen, Tempest DuJour, will be hosting the two-hour production.
Patrick Holt, the man behind the larger-than-life persona of Tempest Dujour, said the show is going to emphasize how much diverse talent can be found right here in Tucson.
"What we've been able to do is bring together the most fabulous acts in Tucson," Holt said. "Some are well known and some are completely unknown, and hopefully what we're trying to do is show Tucson itself."
Producer David Hoffman said the idea for this variety show came last year when he began talking to Joel Feinman, former chair of the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood Arizona, about the organization wanting to reach new demographics.
Hoffman said the current political climate surrounding Planned Parenthood plays a role in why he believes a fundraiser like this one is timely and crucial. He said with the organization being threatened at both the state and federal level, most of the news people receive about it has been grim and contentious, so the community needs a resurgence of hopeful energy.
"I want people to walk away feeling good," Hoffman said. "I want people to walk away feeling energized, feeling rejuvenated—that's where I've been while working on this. It's been a very positive, exciting experience. I want people to have that kind of same experience when they come to the show."
Tayler Tucker, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, said all of the proceeds are estimated to go toward the organization since sponsors and private donors are covering the cost of the show. She said the diversity that will be seen on stage reflects the diversity found among people who come to Planned Parenthood for health care and sex education.
The Very Big Show (of Support!) comes as Republican members of Congress move to eliminate Medicaid funding for healthcare providers that also perform abortions. Although no federal funds can be used to pay for abortions, courts have ruled that under current federal law, states can't block low-income citizens from using their Medicaid coverage to cover the cost of healthcare screenings at Planned Parenthood.
However, with Republican opponents of Planned Parenthood now in control of Congress and the White House, Planned Parenthood supporters fear a new law will block Medicaid patients from choosing to use Planned Parenthood or other healthcare organizations that also provide abortions.
Last month, Planned Parenthood released the results of a poll of Arizona voters that showed that 60 percent had a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, while 30 percent who did not. The Global Strategy Group survey of 600 likely 2018 voters, conducted in December, had a margin of plus or minus 4 percent.
"Defunding Planned Parenthood is code for blocking patients from accessing birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment," said Jodi Liggett, VP of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, in a prepared statement. "Arizonans see right through it. Not only is defunding incredibly dangerous for the thousands of Arizonans who rely on Planned Parenthood for care, but it's incredibly unpopular and it's not what people want. This polling proves that."
Bryan Howard, the president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, calls the Very Big Show "a departure from Planned Parenthood's normal fundraising event.
"But we are intent on reaching out to new and more diverse demographics, who are reflective of the diversity of people we serve," Howard said in a prepared statement. "Golden Gravy Productions (producers of Retro Game Show Night) approached us last summer with the concept of The Very Big Show and we loved it! Planned Parenthood has deep, long-standing roots in Tucson and Southern Arizona, and we want to host a 2017 fundraiser that is fun, energetic, and that showcases how incredibly talented our friends and supporters are, and how much they contribute to the larger community."
The Very Big Show of Support is 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. General admission is $50, or $25 for senior citizens, students, military personnel and people under the age of 30. VIP admission, which offers guests complimentary cocktails at a pre-show reception at the Rialto's R-Bar, a taco truck and the opportunity to experience one-on-one face time with the stars of the show, is $100. Tickets can be purchased at RialtoTheatre.com or by calling (520) 740-1000.