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August 30, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Local actor leaves the Downtown Project to pursue passion and finds inspiration

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Courtesy Photo

Greg Baine

Greg Baine’s road to Las Vegas is one of those less traveled — the Los Angeles writer’s strike killed a lot of acting jobs in L.A. To make money, he took a job at the Beverly Hills hotel, where he met one of Tony Hsieh’s friends, and that led to him being the first hire about two years ago by Hsieh’s Downtown Project.

With the Downtown Project, Baine became known as the hotel concierge of sorts, arranging when and where project visitors and guests would stay at the Ogden high-rise in downtown Las Vegas.

But when he took leave months ago to care for his ailing grandmother, Baine came to grips with the realization that the job was diverting him from his real passion, acting.

He quit and is now on another path, enmeshed in Las Vegas’ community theater and, through a part in the upcoming stage production, “The Normal Heart,” seeing himself as both an actor and an activist.

Actually, the person he portrays in the production, activist Tommy Boatwright, awakened Baine’s community spirit, which led to the Your Heart On campaign to raise up to $5,000 for the new Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada.

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Your Heart On Logo

Baine and others solicited donations totaling $5,000 from local businesses for the campaign. Claire Jane Vranian (icjuk.com), who has designed T-shirts for the band Def Leppard, created the campaign’s logo.

As the campaign continues, the method is simple enough. Every time someone “likes” or posts an image of a heart on the Facebook page of “The Normal Heart,” $1 will be donated to the center. In addition, $5 from each ticket sale for the Poor Richards Players production will be donated to the center for HIV prevention services.

Baine announced the campaign Tuesday and said $600 had already been raised. The campaign ends when the show ends, Sept. 22.

Meanwhile, Baine said the campaign has “taken on a life of its own.” He has been contacted by parties potentially interested in creating a national Your Heart On campaign.

The play will be at Art Square Theater, 1025 S. First St., #110, on Sept. 13-15 and 19-22. Tickets are $25. See www.poorrichardsplayers.com for more information.

It is an autobiographical account of what took place in New York City in the early 1980s, just as people began to become aware of HIV and AIDS. When the local government wasn’t doing enough fast enough, even as people began to die from the disease, activists took up the mantle to make the community aware.

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"Normal Heart" Cast

Portraying Boatwright was an eye-opener for Baine, 35, a professional actor for more than a decade.

“I was unaware of what my community went through until I went through this play,” he said. “It’s easy to turn away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable; this formed me to look me in the eye and do something about it. I feel inspired.”

With a professional acting career going back a little more than a decade, Baine has held parts in movies and on television, including in “That '70s Show,” “Chuck” and a love-scene with Ryan Reynolds in “The Nines.”

Baine says the part most people recognize him for was as a drug user in “The Conversation,” a 30-second commercial that aired during the 2006 Super Bowl.

Interesting about his part in this new production, he said, is how real life and his fundraising campaign mirrors that of his character.

“It’s almost method-acting to the extreme,” he said, laughing. “It’s also amazing that decades later, we’re still dealing with this issue.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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