George Street Playhouse Honors Arthur Laurents with Fund for New Works

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On Sunday, May 6, George Street Playhouse paid tribute to playwright and director Arthur Laurents with the naming of the theatre's mainstage as The Arthur Laurents Stage at George Street Playhouse and the establishment of The Arthur Laurents Fund for the Development of New Work.

The announcement was made by actress, playwright and friend of Mr. Laurents, Anne Meara at a star-studded gala evening that featured performances Two-Time Tony Award Winner David Hyde Pierce, Annie Golden, David Josefsburg, as well as Tony Nominees Jonathan C. Kaplan, Howard McGillin and Nancy Opel.

"It's my pleasure this evening to help George Street Playhouse inaugurate The Arthur Laurents Fund for New Work", said Miss Meara. "The fund will provide resources to ensure the future production and development of new plays at George Street Playhouse"

In addition to his enduring legacy to the American stage, that most famously includes the authoring of the books for West Side Story and Gypsy as well as the screenplays for The Way We Were, The Turning Point and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, Mr. Laurents had nine of his later plays premiered at George Street Playhouse. He often remarked that he considered the New Brunswick theatre his artistic home, and served as mentor and close friend to its Artistic Director David Saint (who serves as Literary Executor of his estate). Mr. Laurents died on May 5, 2011 at the age of 93.

"The thing that Arthur was most passionate about was the stage – most especially the American stage," said Mr. Saint. "He particularly wanted to ensure new and vibrant work for the theater to ensure its survival, and the establishment of this fund at George Street Playhouse is a fitting tribute to his memory, and a legacy of which he would be most proud."

Those who wish to to support this important initiative may contact Judith McDowell, George Street Playhouse Director of Development by phone at 732-846-2895, or by email at jmcdowell@georgestplayhouse.org.

Earlier in the evening, Former Governor Thomas H. Kean personally presented the Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award to Basking Ridge resident William V. Engel. The award, first given to Governor Kean in 1990 and thereafter, named in his honor, pays tribute to an individual, corporation or foundation whose dedication to the arts enhances the cultural life of the citizens of New Jersey. Mr. Engel is a longtime subscriber and friend of The Playhouse and a noted supporter as well as an advocate of the arts in New Jersey.

"The arts are extremely important," said Mr. Engel in his acceptance of the award. "They are the soul of this country. Not only do they enrich our communities but also they fuel our economy. It is incumbent upon all of us to support them."

William V. (Bill) Engel was born in Manhattan, but grew up in Westfield, New Jersey where he attended Westfield public schools through eighth grade. He then went to The Pingry School from which he graduated in 1967. He graduated from Princeton University in 1971 with an A.B. with honors in History and a concentration in Afro-American Studies. He graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1974. He received an Honorary Degree from St. Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey in 1987. After law school, Bill initially worked as a Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and then returned to New Jersey to go into law practice with his father, Joseph G. Engel. He has continued that practice, now known as Engel & Devlin, P.C., to the present. The firm, located in Warren Township, New Jersey, specializes in trusts and estates, private foundation law, and residential real estate transactions.

Bill's combined service as a Trustee of five private foundations and one charitable trust collectively totals 181 years, most of which he has been and remains the chief executive and operating officer. In addition, his service as a Trustee for numerous non-profit organizations adds to a total of 90 years, including seven years as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Pingry. He has also been a co-Founder and Trustee for sixteen years of New Jersey SEEDS and served for seven years as a Trustee of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. He is a longtime personal supporter of various New Jersey arts organizations and a season subscriber to George Street Playhouse and Paper Mill Playhouse. He resides in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint, George Street Playhouse has become a nationally recognized theatre, presenting an acclaimed mainstage season while providing an artistic home for established and emerging theatre artists. Noted Arts Administrator Norma Kaplan was appointed Managing Director in September 2011. Founded in 1974, The Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway – recent productions include the Outer Critics' Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger, the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill and the recent Broadway hit and Tony® and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at GSP during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays. In addition to its mainstage season, GSP's Touring Theatre features four issue-oriented productions that are seen by more than 40,000 students annually. George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by its lead season sponsor, Johnson & Johnson. The Star Ledger is 2011-2012 print media sponsor of George Street Playhouse.

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