Artists and performers generally don’t have a lot of extra cash. But what they do have is talent.

So when retired West End News publisher and longtime champion of the arts Ed King was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, the local creative community was eager to help in the best way they knew how: by putting on a series of benefit shows that kick off Saturday night.

“People were extremely responsive,” said Joie Grandbois, who manages the Dark Follies vaudeville troupe and is helping to organize the upcoming shows. “I had no problem finding people to perform.”

The first benefit show takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Empire Dine & Dance in Portland. Called “Carnival of Support,” the carnival-style show features performances by the Dark Follies plus a number of musicians, jugglers, bellydancers, hula hoopers, poi twirlers and balloon artists.

Those who attend will be asked to make a $10 donation toward King’s medical bills.

Before being diagnosed with colon cancer, King and his partner, Liz McMahon, a former director of Lucid Stage, had sold all their possessions and moved to Russia so McMahon could take a job teaching English. The diagnosis forced their hasty return to Portland, where King is being treated for his condition but without the benefit of health insurance or a permanent place to stay.

“I think people recognize that when you make the decision to be an artist or devote your life to something that supports the community, you may not have a regular income or health insurance,” Grandbois said. “We’re all in the same boat. We recognize that if something were to happen to one of us, we’d be in the same boat.”

Rachel Flehinger, who teaches improv comedy and is part of the Running with Scissors improv comedy group, is helping Grandbois coordinate the outpouring of interest from performers.

“We’re doing two events and possibly three and an online auction,” Flehinger said. “All the improv groups are fighting over performing.”

The second show takes place at 8 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Mayo Street Arts Center in Portland, and will feature improv comedians and theater groups.

However, because the response from the improv community has been so strong, Flehinger is looking for a third venue where they could host an improv-only show in February or March and allow the January show to focus on theater.

“The idea is to stagger (the shows) as the care progresses, so he’d still have funds,” Flehinger said. “This is an ongoing process. We’re not just showing up and walking away. The idea is to be there for him.”

Flehinger said she’s also heard from a number of visual artists and service providers who want to help by donating art or gift certificates. To take advantage of these offers, she is in the process of setting up an online auction site that she hopes to have up and running by February.

“The response is overwhelming,” Flehinger said. “There are many times I’ve been so touched by the number of people who’ve come forward to do anything they can.”

Grandbois agreed that the response has been overwhelming, but she’s not surprised.

“Both of them have done so much to support the arts in the Portland community, and I think it’s our chance to give something back to them,” Grandbois said.

Or as Flehinger said, “Unfortunately, the arts don’t pay, but what we can do is perform and show our support that way.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila