Photo Flash: Bernadette Peters, Kristin Chenoweth, and More Honor Craig Zadan and Neil Meron
The late, legendary producer Craig Zadan, and his producing partner, Neil Meron, were honored last night as the inaugural recipients of the Theatre for Life Award by the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) for the imaginative transformation of live theatre in film, television, and associated media.
Zadan and Meron were lauded for setting the standard for musical theatre on television and in films, bringing it to a national audience of young people everywhere. It was presented at Thespians Go Hollywood, the annual benefit in Los Angeles that supports theatre education programs for schools in need by bringing together film, theatre, and TV professionals, and current high school students. Donations in Zadan's memory continue to be accepted by ETF's Craig Zadan Memorial Fund.
Presenting the Theatre for Life Award actress Renée Zellweger said, "Craig was a selfless friend, a man of great character, an advocate for what is right and true, and a great story teller. Craig and Neil's work has shaped history and changed lives."
In accepting the award Meron said, "I know Craig treasured the knowledge that NBC's live musicals were family-viewing affairs in many households. To receive an award that celebrates the joy we were able to share with others through musical theatre is deeply meaningful to me. Thank you."
Elwood Hopkins, Zadan's life partner, shared, "Sometimes he saw the entire unfoldment of his life to be about spreading the theatrical experience to ever more people across age, race, income, and geography."
Among others sharing personal remembrances at the invitation-only event were: Kristin Chenoweth ("'Til There Was You"), and duet with Sean Hayes ("I'll Never Fall in Love Again"), Harry Connick, Jr. ("When I Get My Name in Lights"), Darren Criss ("I Believe in You"), Robert Greenblatt (Tribute), Megan Hilty ("Don't Forgt Me/Let Me Be Your Star"), Jennifer Hudson ("I Know Where I've Been"), Kenny Leon (tribute), Audra McDonald ("Climb Every Mountain"), Debra Messing (Tribute), Bernadette Peters ("With So Little To Be Sure Of"), Amber Riley ("Home"), John Stamos (Tribute), Nia Vardalos (Tribute and reading of letter from Bette Midler), and Renée Zellweger (tribute). Tributes were also made via video by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and John Travolta.
In addition to the stars participating in the tribute, as is traditional for the Thespians Go Hollywood event, area students who are members of the International Thespian Society (ITS), were also tapped to perform "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray. ITS is the Honor Society for middle and high school theatre students, which has inducted more than 2.3 million members into Thespian troupes since its founding in 1929.
On behalf of the Educational Theatre Foundation, President Julie Cohen Theobald said, "The Educational Theatre Foundation's mission is that every child has access to theatre in their school. Craig and Neil are the ideal recipients to honor for their dedication to bringing theatre to as many people as possible."
A long-time friend of Zadan, Robert Greenblatt, said, "We are bereft at his passing. But it was his incredible passion for life and musical theatre that have become his legacy and what we will remember always. Craig and I were in total agreement about the fact that young people should be exposed to theatre as much as possible. It's a vital part of our culture and all people should grow up with it and be given the chance to participate in it."
The Educational Theatre Foundation was launched November, 2017, as the philanthropic arm of the Educational Theatre Association, which is the home of the International Thespian Society. ETF provides essential financial support to enhance excellence in theatre education and to expand access to school theatre programs for every child, putting them on a more positive life path. ETF is focused on three areas: JumpStart Theatre-to create sustainable musical theatre programs where there previously were none; need-based grants to schools-to provide teaching and performance resources and equipment in under-resourced schools; and, merit and need-based grants to individuals-to nurture the next generation of theatre teachers and artists. In its first year ETF has awarded more than $650,000 in grants, directly impacting high school theatre programs in 50 cities, and enabling the development of musical theatre programs in underserved middle schools in six states.
Jennifer Hudson and choir
Julie Cohen Theobald
Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, John Stamos, Neil Meron, Elwood Hopkins, Marc Shaiman, Nia Vardalos, Harry Connick, Jr., Amber Riley, Robert Greenblatt, Megan Hilty, Renee Zellweger, Bernadette Peters, Scott Wittman