Tony Nominee Nancy Opel & Stanley Bahorek Set for Abingdon's SWINGING ON A STAR Gala Today

Abingdon Theatre Company - which has produced more than 80 new American plays in its 21-year history -celebrates its 2013-14 Season with ABINGDON: SWINGING ON A STAR, its Annual Benefit Gala and dinner, tonight, October 7 at Espace (635 West 42nd Street in Manhattan), beginning at 6pm. Dick Cavett, celebrated author, actor and host of the Emmy Award-winning "The Dick Cavett Show," is set to host.

The entertaining evening honors award-winning veteran of stage, screen and television, Frances Sternhagen (On Golden Pond, Driving Miss Daisy, "Cheers"). The gala also honors Barbara Blair Randall, President of New York's Fashion Center Business Improvement District, and actress Sheila Ball Burkert (Founder, Act II...Gether Youth Troupe).

Tony Award-nominee Nancy Opel (Urinetown) and Stanley Bahorek (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), both Abingdon alumni and currently co-starring in the Broadway-bound musical Honeymoon in Vegas, are set to perform. Additional performers include NYMF Award-winner Laura Daniel (The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun). Donald Brenner directs, with musical direction by Joshua Zecher-Ross.

Presenters and guests include playwright A.R. Gurney, Kathleen Chalfant, Cherry Jones, Sloane Shelton, Lois Smith, musician Melanie, members of the Act II...Gether Youth Troupe, artist Kyle Hardin DeWoody, and others to be announced.

A live auction led by actor and auctioneer Peter Brouwer (Bodega Bay) features tickets to Broadway's The Glass Menagerie, a round of golf at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, tickets to a Yankees game, and much more.

Proceeds benefit Abingdon Theatre Company's mission to develop and produce new American plays. Abingdon Theatre Company's 21st Annual Benefit Gala features tributes to all three honorees, PLUS Entertainment, silent and live auctions, and exciting surprises throughout the night.

Frances Sternhagen received Tony Awards for her performances in The Good Doctor and The Heiress. She has been nominated five other times for Equus, On Golden Pond, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, Angel and Morning's at Seven. Other Broadway performances include Seascape, All Over and Steel Magnolias. Her most recent performance was at Manhattan Theatre Club in The Madrid with Edie Falco. Ms. Sternhagen received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 OBIE Awards. She received two nominations for the Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Play" for a revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night at the Irish Repertory Theatre and for the World War I drama, Echoes of the War. She won the Distinguished Performances OBIE Award for The
Room and A Slight Ache, as well as the Clarence Derwent Award as Shavian Heroine in The Admiral Bashville. Another memorable Off-Broadway performance was the title character in Driving Miss
Daisy. Television audiences know her as Esther Clavin on the long-running series, "Cheers." She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role in "Sex and the City." Film credits include Julie & Julia, Misery, Raising Cain, The Mist, Independence Day, Outland and Starting Over. Other television credits are "The Closer," "ER" and "Law & Order." She worked for many years in soap operas such as "Another World," "The Secret Storm," "Love of Life" and "One Life to Live."

Emcee Dick Cavett was the host of "The Dick Cavett Show," which won three Emmys and aired on ABC from 1968 to 1975 and on PBS from 1977 to 1982. He also hosted talk shows on the USA, HBO, and CNBC cable networks. He is the co-author of two books, Cavett (1974) and Eye On Cavett (1983). He has appeared on Broadway in Otherwise Engaged, Into the Woods and as narrator in The Rocky Horror Show, and has made guest appearances in movies and TV shows including Forrest Gump, Beetlejuice, "The Simpsons," HBO's "Bored to Death" and TBS's "Are We There Yet?." His latest book, published November 2010, is Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets. Since 2007, he has written an online opinion column for The New York Times.

Barbara Blair Randall has led the Fashion Center Business Improvement District as its President since 1995. Home to 6,000 businesses in 350 buildings, all located between 41st and 35th Street, from Fifth to Ninth Avenues, New York's Fashion District is still the undisputed home to American fashion, but what was once an area dominated by fashion production has now become a neighborhood with an eclectic mix of uses. Ms. Randall has positioned the district as an ideal midtown Manhattan location for businesses that is now competitive with other midtown business districts.

Actress Sheila Ball Burkert began her professional career in the cast of "Search for Tomorrow." Subsequently, she worked on "Guiding Light," "As the World Turns," "One Life to Live" and "Another World." Stage, TV and film credits also include Burning Blue, and PBS's "Love and Other Sorrows" and "Black & White." Sheila is the founder of the Act II...Gether Troupe where she teaches an ensemble of young girls, ages 7-14. For the past five years, Abingdon has partnered with Sheila to present the work of these girls, who perform original and classic material, including monologues and scenes written by Abingdon playwrights.

Since 1993, Abingdon Theatre Company has developed and produced new plays by American Playwrights exclusively. Their actors, directors, designers, producers and dramaturgs have collaborated with more than 200 playwrights to develop original plays. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Jan Buttram and Managing Director Heather Henderson, the company provides a safe home where playwrights collaborate with other theatre artists and receive audience feedback through readings and workout labs, culminating in full productions.

Abingdon Theatre Company's upcoming 21st Season includes Helen Sneed's Fix Me, Jesus, directed by Sam Pinkleton (November 1-24, 2013) and Brian Richard Mori's Hellman V. McCarthy (March 14-April 13, 2014), as well as The Sunday Series, Pop Up Playhouse, Page2Stage readings, and special events.

Last year's gala was postponed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The evening honored Tony and Emmy Award-winner Tyne Daly, businessman Sam Altman, and the late publicist Shirley Herz to whom Abingdon Theatre Company's 2013-14 Season will be dedicated.

ABINGDON: SWINGING ON A STAR, Abingdon Theatre Company's 21st Annual Benefit Gala, is Monday, October 7 at Espace (635 West 42nd Street), 6pm-10pm. Tickets begin at $400. To purchase tickets, please contact Heather Henderson at Abingdon Theatre Company, 212-868-2055.

For more information, visit

Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski

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