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Tony Award Winner, W.Va. Native Pulls Local & NYC Talent for Flood Benefit

Michael Cerveris
Josh Saul
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Michael Cerveris performs on Mountain Stage on April 17, 2016.

In the wake of June’s devastating floods, West Virginians from all over mobilized to help those in need. High-profile natives like Brad Paisley and Jennifer Garner returned home to raise awareness as well as money, shining a light on a tragedy that claimed 23 lives and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and businesses. But there are other big name West Virginians playing a part, too - even if they can't make it back home to do so. 

Born in Bethesda, Maryland, and raised in Huntington, actor and musician Michael Cerveris has been increasingly visible in popular culture in recent years, notably on FOX’s sci-fi series Fringe, where he took on a mysterious character known as The Observer.

He’s also currently starring in a lead role for the Tony-Award Winning Broadway musical Fun Home, a role he won a Tony for himself as Best Actor--one of the highest honors in American theater.

If acting accolades weren't enough, Cerveris has also made a name for himself in music. He's toured as a guitarist for Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, recorded and performed as a solo artist and is part of the country/folk outfit Loose Cattle.

After hearing about the flooding back home in West Virginia, Cerveris quickly rounded up his bandmates in Loose Cattle to record, mix and produce a music video of the group covering The Bottle Rockets’ “Get Down River” for a flood relief telethon that aired statewide on July 1--barely a week after the storm that brought the flooding and all the devastation.

Donations came pouring in, with Cerveris’ efforts quickly pulling in over $325,000. But, living in New York, he wanted to do more. As a veteran of Mountain Stage, Cerveris called host Larry Groce to make sure everyone on the show's crew was safe but also to see what else he could do.

“As the days went on and the reports got more and more dire and it became more apparent what the level of devastation that was happening there - I got more resolved to do something more to help,” said Cerveris.

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So Groce and Mountain Stage band guitarist Michael Lipton helped Cerveris assemble an all-star cast of musicians for a concert Sunday night at Joe's Pub in New York City. Take Me Home: A Benefit for West Virginia will feature Cerveris’ own band, as well as other New York and West Virginia acts, including Groce and his wife Sandra, The Carpenter Ants, Nellie McKay and Anders Parker.

Most of the artists have performed on Mountain Stage, including local talent such as Todd Burge, Ona and Tyler Childers.

Cerveris says he’s been keeping his eyes and ears on the emerging artists from his home state.

“Two acts that I’m really excited about - who I haven’t seen before but I’ve gotten to know - I was  referred to them and started kind of looking up and stalking them on Facebook and now I’ve become huge fans of both of them," began Cerveris.

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Credit Brain Blauser / Mountain Stage
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Mountain Stage
Tyler Childers performing live on Mountain Stage.

"Tyler Childers, who's a really good singer-songwriter, I guess who is originally from eastern Kentucky. And then, Ona, who are a really great indie rock band from Huntington.”

Being a  West Virginia-grown talent comes along with a deeply ingrained sensibility to help those in need. As Larry Groce points out, the artists featured this coming weekend for Cerveris’ benefit have already lent a helping hand - not only offering their talent here at home, but also by delivering supplies and much-needed labor.

“West Virginians, in general - one of the biggest characteristics of the state and one of the reasons I wanted to stay here - was that they help each other out. West Virginians help each each other out by definition. It’s going to be the exception of people that don’t do that,” said Groce.

“Musicians and artists are right at the top of this list of people who want to help out other people. They appreciate the fact that folks come to see them. They’re grateful for that and they want to give back always,” he added.

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Credit Josh Saul / Mountain Stage
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Mountain Stage
Huntington indie rock band Ona.

Cerveris said he hopes the benefit will not only help those in need here, but further connect him with the West Virginia Diaspora that have found themselves living in New York - a population he’s been meaning to find since arriving in the big city.

“Well, I have to say, unfortunately, I haven’t managed to crossed paths with as many of those folks as I’d have liked to and in some ways this is sort of opening the door to do that somewhat,” said Cerveris.

“I think maybe at some level, I haven't outed myself as a West Virginian until now. So, I’m hoping people will see that and come find me.”

Two shows of the Take Me Home: A Benefit for West Virginia are scheduled for Sunday night at Joe’s Pub in New York City, one at 7:00 and another at 9:30. The venue will provide a live stream of the event via YouTube.

 


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