Huntington Theatre Company Celebrates Virtual Gala Featuring Billy Porter, Kate Baldwin and More

By: Jun. 17, 2020

Huntington Theatre Company celebrated its first ever virtual gala fundraiser, Spotlight on Trailblazers, on Monday, June 15, 2020, streaming on the Huntington's Facebook and YouTube channels. The event will be reprised in a highlights version broadcast on Boston's WCVB-TV Channel 5 on Saturday, June 20 at 7:30pm.

Watch below!

Huntington Trustee and corporate and philanthropic leader Sandra O. Moose and Tony Award winner and Huntington alumnus Ruben Santiago-Hudson (American Gangster, Selma, ABC's "Castle") were honored with the Wimberly Award at the 2020 Spotlight on Trailblazers. Santiago-Hudson appeared on the Huntington stage in August Wilson's Seven Guitars and Gem of the Ocean, both of which went on to Broadway where he received the Tony Award for his performance in Seven Guitars. The Huntington was slated to present his autobiographical show Lackawanna Blues this summer, before it was postponed due to the pandemic.

The Spotlight on Trailblazers event is co-hosted by WCVB's host of "CityLine" and Director of Public Affairs and Community Services Karen Holmes Ward and Joyce Kulhawik, Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, Joyce's Choices critic, and President of the Boston Theater Critics Association. The event chairs are Trustee Ann Merrifield and her husband Wayne Davis. Performances at the event feature Huntington alumni and Broadway luminaries Kate Baldwin, Keith David, Santino Fontana, and Marva Hicks.

In her Wimberly Award acceptance speech, Trustee Sandra O. Moose called the Huntington "a vital catalyst," saying, "I believe in the Huntington, in the work that the Huntington does for artists and young people in Boston and beyond. And I believe in a future for the Huntington and theatre as an art form that will emerge stronger than ever to enrich our lives as they always have."

In a heartfelt acceptance speech that acknowledged the protests and racial struggles in this country, actor and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson declared, "We are human beings. There is nothing in human life that is foreign to us. These are dark days, but I vow to go out and be a beacon of light."

Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots on Broadway, FX's "Pose") joined the event as a special guest, speaking as a champion of the Huntington's education programs. "Theatre saved my life," said Porter, as he encouraged all to support Huntington programs that help young people thrive. Porter has directed several Huntington productions including Topdog/Underdog, The Colored Museum, and most recently The Purists last fall.

Porter generously donated a once-in-a-lifetime experience to the Huntington's online auction - the opportunity to join this fashion icon as he prepares and arrives on the red carpet for the 2021 Met Gala in New York City. Additional auction items include exclusive experiences and items including a virtual visit with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel and a curated theatre weekend with Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. The Huntington's 2020 Spotlight on Trailblazers Auction is open to participation from the general public now through midnight on June 20 by visiting 50% of all auction proceeds will be shared with the Codman Academy Charter Public School Foundation, in celebration and support of the Huntington's founding partnership with and the upcoming 20th anniversary of the school.

Spotlight on Trailblazers also included moving and powerful performances from Tony Award-nominee Kate Baldwin (Hello Dolly!, Big Fish, She Loves Me at the Huntington) who sang "Hold On" from The Secret Garden; Keith David (Seven Guitars at the Huntington and on Broadway, There's Something About Mary, Crash) who sang "If I Can Help Somebody" and "Here's to Life" as a tribute to Santiago-Hudson; Tony Award winner Santino Fontana (Tootsie, Disney feature film Frozen, CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend") who serenaded honoree Sandy Moose with a version of "Hello, Dolly!"; and award-winning actress and R&B singer, and Santiago-Hudson collaborator, Marva Hicks (The Lion King, Caroline or Change, Motown The Musical) who rounded out the event with a rousing rendition of "Higher Love." Matthew Stern served as the music director and pianist for the event, with musicians Nick Francese on bass and Josh Goldman on percussion.

In addition to the Wimberly Award honorees, the event celebrated the winners of the Gerard and Sherryl Cohen Awards for Excellence, which recognizes Huntington production and administrative staff members each year. This year's recipients were Graphic Designer Lauren Calder and Calderwood Pavilion House Electrician Taylor Ness.

The Huntington's festive annual event raises funds to support the Huntington's programs, including its award-winning youth, education, and community initiatives that reach more than 30,000 annually. Over 400 people viewed this virtual fundraiser Monday night, the first in Huntington's history, as they celebrated two Huntington trailblazers; ticket buyers and sponsors were given access to a VIP experience including a custom party box and a Zoom cocktail reception with Huntington artists and guests, and the YouTube and Facebook Live streaming was available to all. The online auction continues through Saturday, June 20 at midnight.

For more information on the event please visit

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