Laura Benanti & More Perform at Theatre Forward's Gala Honoring Jesse Tyler Ferguson Tonight

THEATRE FORWARD and Chairman JAMES S. TURLEY will lead a celebration to support American theatre at the annual Chairman's Awards Gala tonight, April 11th at The Pierre New York (2 East 61st Street at Fifth Avenue) at 6:30pm. The Chairman's Awards Gala supports the creation of theatrical works and arts education at the country's leading nonprofit theatres.

The evening's master of ceremonies will be Tony Award nominee JOHN CARIANI (Something Rotten!; Almost, Maine; "Law & Order"). The event will include performances by Tony Award Winner LAURA BENANTI (She Loves Me, "Supergirl," "Nashville"), MATT GOULD and GRIFFIN MATTHEWS (Invisible Thread) performing a number from their upcoming The Family Project, with NATHANIAL STAMPLEY (Porgy & Bess), MARVA HICKS (Motown), JESSICA MOLASKEY (Encores! The Most Happy Fella) and STEVEN RATTAZZI (Indecent, Galileo),and BENJAMIN SCHEUER, performing a number from his critically acclaimed show, The Lion. The opening number will be performed by KEVIN DUDA (Beautiful, The Book of Mormon), JASON MICHAEL SNOW (The Book of Mormon), RAYMOND J. LEE (Honeymoon in Vegas, Anything Goes), JOHN RIDDLE (The Secret Garden, The Visit), LINDSEY BRETT CAROTHERS (Bring It On) and TAMIKA LAWRENCE (If/Then, Matilda). MARTHA PLIMPTON (A Delicate Balance, "The Real O'Neals") will present the Theatre Artist Award to Jesse Tyler Ferguson and ANA VILLAFAÑE (On Your Feet) will present the Theatre Forward Leadership Award to John R. Dutt.

Five-time Emmy Award nominee JESSE TYLER FERGUSON ("Modern Family," The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), currently starring on Broadway in the comedy, Fully Committed, will be honored with the Theatre Artist Award. JOHN R. DUTT, former-Vice President/Chief Litigation Counsel for Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. and Theatre Forward board member will receive the Theatre Forward Leadership Award. Pamela Farr and Buford Alexander, Joseph F. Kirk, NY-CT Region President, Wells Fargo; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP will serve as event co-chairs.

"As a supporter of arts education through his work with organizations such as Turnaround Arts, Jesse Tyler Ferguson embodies the same passion and commitment to advancing theatre that we work toward every day at Theatre Forward," said Bruce E. Whitacre, Theatre Forward Executive Director. "Not only is he an incredible activist, but an accomplished artist who is committed to theatre. John R. Dutt has championed the work of Theatre Forward as a board member for over a decade. His dedication to the organization, and his continued work to support regional theaters across the country have made him an invaluable leader and member of the Theatre Forward family. It is a privilege to honor both men at this year's Gala."

The Gala will support new work at Theatre Forward's founding theatres. Theatre Forward was formerly known as National Corporate Theatre Fund.

The Gala will include drinks, dinner, and performance, as well as a live and silent auction. Auction proceeds will benefit theatre education programs across the country serving 500,000 students. The Patron and Co-Chair Tables are priced at $25,000. Benefactor Tables are priced at $15,000 and Sponsor Tables are priced at $10,000. Ticket pricing is as follows: $2,500 (Patron Ticket), $1,000 (Individual Ticket), $350 (Associate Ticket, 35 & under). Journal ads and Sponsorships are also available.

For ticket information contact Emily Miller at (212) 750-6895 or emiller@theatreforward.org

JESSE TYLER FERGUSON currently stars as "Mitchell Pritchett" on the Award-­?winning ABC comedy "Modern Family." Now in its seventh season, the show has earned five Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series, a Golden Globe Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and four Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Ferguson has also received five Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and four People's Choice Award nominations for "Favorite Comedic TV Actor" on behalf of "Modern Family."

Ferguson returns to Broadway in April 2016 starring as 40 outrageous characters in the one-man show and highly anticipated comedy Fully Committed. On the big screen, Ferguson will star as the voice of "The Shangri Llama" in 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Collision Course which will be in theaters July 2016.

Ferguson made his Broadway debut at the age of 21 as "Chip" in George C. Wolfe's revival of On The Town. He later went on to originate the role of "Leaf Coneybear" in the Tony Award-­?winning Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee ("Outstanding Ensemble Performance" winner, Drama Desk Awards, 2005; "Distinguished Performance" nominee, Drama League Awards, 2005. Other theatre credits include world premieres of Christopher Shinn's Where Do We Live and Michael John LaChiusa's Little Fish, as well as "Leo Bloom" in The Producers and "Sir Robin" in Spamalot, both at The Hollywood Bowl.

Ferguson has also worked extensively with The New York Public Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park in such notable productions as The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors ("Distinguished Performance" nominee, Drama League Awards, 2014), The Merchant of Venice, The Winter's Tale and A Midsummer Night's Dream ("Distinguished Performance" nominee, Drama League Awards, 2008).

A longstanding advocate for marriage equality, Ferguson co-­?founded Tie The Knot in 2012 with his husband, where they design limited edition bow ties with all the proceeds going to various organizations that fight for civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Their first collection debuted in November 2012 and sold out in less than a month. They have released new collections seasonally since and featured ties designed by guest designers including Isaac Mizrahi, George Takei, Tim Gunn and Bryan Cranston. In addition to marriage equality, Ferguson is also an advocate and active supporter of the Human Rights Campaign. In 2011, he was honored with the HRC's Media Award, which recognizes an individual for establishing a positive, increased awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in the media. Ferguson currently resides in Los Angeles.

JOHN R. DUTT represents the Everyman of New York theatre - literally a stage-door Johnny - reveling in the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd (and vice versa) from afar. A member of the Board of Directors of Theatre Forward for eleven years, John has channeled his passion for the theatre to fund-raising, recognizing the need to enlist the private sector in the campaign to counter the hardships wrought by savage educational and governmental budget cuts to the arts, and arts education, across the nation.

John was steeped in the theatre from youth, it was through the experiences of his father, the local undertaker as well as the regular leading man in the local county playhouse (his skills as a make-up artist serving him well in both endeavors...) that John came to appreciate the value of regional theatre and all the talented people who work so hard for a place in the spotlight far away from the glitter of Broadway.

John took a few detours before coming to New York, serving for four years as an officer aboard a destroyer in the U.S. Navy, and then to law school at the University of Virginia. After a federal judicial clerkship he packed his belongings in a U-Haul van and drove all night from Ohio, crossing the GW Bridge at dawn on a Sunday in October 1980, ready to tackle the City. After a stint in private practice with the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, he signed on as senior litigation counsel at Chase Manhattan Bank and in 1989 moved to Marsh & McLennan Companies, a Fortune 100 company with 57,000+ employees in more than 80 countries around the world, where he rose to become Global Chief Litigation Counsel. He retired at year-end, 2015. MMC has been a proud sponsor of Theatre Forward and its predecessor, the National Corporate Theatre Fund, for more than fifteen years. John is honored to have played a part in advancing that sponsorship and in supporting the invaluable work of Theatre Forward and its mission around the country.

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