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Craig Zadan Memorial Fund Established to Benefit School Theatre Programs in Communities of Color


Craig Zadan Memorial Fund Established to Benefit School Theatre Programs in Communities of Color

The Educational Theatre Foundation has announced the establishment of the Craig Zadan Memorial Fund For Racial Equity In School Theatre, honoring the late award-winning producer of stage, screen, and television.

The organization will award five annual $10,000 grants to school theatre programs in communities of color across the nation. The effort was launched with $250,000 raised at a 2018 memorial concert honoring Zadan following his sudden passing.

According to a letter sent by the foundation, the goal of the program is "to translate the outpouring of generosity on that night into a permanent funding stream they label Pathway for high school and middle school plays and musicals, especially in communities of color that-more often than not-face stark disparities in access to such opportunities. Little did we know that this undertaking would soon become centrally relevant to a transformation in our national consciousness - an awakening to the price we all pay for racial disparities."

Schools in Atlanta, Miami, Fresno and Cincinnati are currently in discussions with the foundation be the inaugural recipients for the 2020-21 school year.

Elwood Hopkins, husband of the late producer, says of larger plans for the foundation, "We built a celebrity advisory board [from those who attended the memorial concert] and the members agreed to visit the funded schools (the first will be Audra McDonald at a school in Fresno and Danny Pino in Miami, visiting their hometown schools). We also have a leadership group that includes people from Workplace Hollywood, the effort Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks supported many years back. They are at the early stages of designing pathways for young people of color in these schools to find work in the entertainment industry."

Along with his producing partner, Neil Meron, Zadan's extensive career included works on the big and small screens, as well as the stage. Most notably, the team has produced NBC's annual live musicals including, The Sound of Music Live!, Peter Pan Live!, The Wiz Live!, Hairspray Live! and Jesus Christ Superstar Live!

Their motion picture credits include, the movie musical Hairspray, Footloose and the Oscar-winning Best Picture, Chicago.

The two have accrued an astounding 148 Emmy nominations, including honors for their television films Gypsy starring Bette Midler, Cinderella starring Whitney Houston and Brandy, Annie starring Kathy Bates, The Music Man starring Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Broderick, a television remake of Steel Magnolias and the Golden Globe-nominated TV series SMASH.

Throughout their storied career, Zadan and Meron have earned a total of six Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, 17 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a Grammy Award, six GLAAD Awards, four NAACP IMAGE AWARDS and two Tony Awards.

Zadan and Meron have also produced award shows including the 85th Academy Awards, which garnered over 40 million viewers in the U.S. alone, the 86th Academy Awards, which was named the highest rated Academy Awards of the Century. They returned in 2015 to produce the 87th Academy Awards, making Zadan and Meron the first executive producers in sixteen years to have produced three consecutive Oscar broadcasts.

Having begun his career working for Joe Papp at The Public Theater, Zadan and Meron also have a number of theatre credits to their name, including the Tony-winning Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe, and the recent Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth.

Zadan and Meron had recently inked a deal with The Shubert Organization to develop and produce new plays and musicals for the stage. They also produced a concert version of Bombshell, the fictional musical from their series Smash, as a charity benefit for The Actors Fund. A complete version of the fictional musical is currently in development.

Zadan and Meron were also currently at work on the upcoming Hair Live! and Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men Live! for NBC, as well as a Broadway production of the classic comedy Some Like It Hot, with Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Matthew Lopez, directed and Casey Nicholaw. A feature film was also in the works, Hans Christian Andersen, written by Stephen Schwartz and David Magee.

In addition to his producing credits, Zadan was also an author, having penned the book Sondheim & Co., which tells behind the scenes stories of the making of the musicals of Stephen Sondheim. Prior to his producing career, he wrote for New York Magazine and also contributed articles to publications such as After Dark. He co-produced a Broadway tribute to Stephen Sondheim, Sondheim: A Musical Tribute, featuring Angela Lansbury and Alexis Smith in 1973.

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