Huntington Theatre Company 2019 Gala Breaks Fundraising Records
Huntington Theatre Company board and staff are celebrating breaking their fundraising record at the Spotlight Spectacular gala, Monday, May 6. Held at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama, the gala brought in $1.3 million to support the Huntington's operations for the fiscal year, including its broad range of education and community outreach programs.
More than 440 guests honored Wimberly Award recipients including the Huntington's Norma Jean Calderwood Artistic Director Peter DuBois, Board Chairman David Epstein and Education Committee Chair Betsy Banks Epstein. The event was co-chaired by Cokie and Lee Perry, and Linda and Daniel Waintrup.
At last year's gala, Managing Director Michael Maso broke news that he had received the signed deed to the Huntington Avenue Theatre, which the company now owns outright after its separation from Boston University and the sale of surrounding buildings. The Huntington will renovate the historic theatre as part of an overhaul of the one-block stretch of Huntington Avenue. This year's record-breaking numbers are a testament to the enthusiasm and commitment of the Huntington's dedicated supporters to the renovation campaign and securing the legacy for the Huntington Theatre Company.
I feel fortunate that I have called Boston my home for my entire life. In my real estate business, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with a diverse cross-section of people living in many of Boston's neighborhoods. I've also seen up-close and personally how Boston's passion for sports is a reflection of its passion for life, said 2019 Wimberly Award honoree, and co-investor of the Boston Celtics, David Epstein. We are better when we connect to community and share experiences. For me this is the treasure at the core of the Huntington's mission sharing stories, celebrating artistic risk, and laughing, crying, and learning together. Theatre can be astonishingly transcendent and frighteningly intimate. As a community, our theatre experiences become part of our collective conscience. Within the walls of our restored historic theatre and our new interactive social spaces we will expand our audience to deepen our connections to our beautiful and diverse community.
Norma Jean Calderwood Artistic Director and fellow 2019 Wimberly Award honoree Peter DuBois also shared his enthusiasm for the Huntington's future. We are marrying Boston history with a vibrant modern vision for Boston's future: something social, something that brings you joy, something that allows for cultural collision in our city which is in the midst of a whole new bloom of innovation, significance, and forward thought.
After a cocktail reception sponsored by First Republic Bank, guests were seated for the dinner and the evening's program. Elliot Norton Award winner Aimee Doherty (Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George at the Huntington) kicked off the evening with a performance of I Can Cook Too from On the Town. A spirited live auction led by Maso featured exciting trips and unique experiences including a visit to the set of the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, directed by Huntington alumna and 2018 Wimberly Award recipient Liesl Tommy. Guests also donated a record $300,000 to sponsor the Huntington's education programs including the Student Matinee Series. All proceeds raised at the Spotlight Spectacular support the theatre, including award-winning education and community programs that reach more than 30,000 students and 6,000 community members annually.
The evening continued with the presentation of the Gerard and Sherryl Cohen Awards for Excellence, which recognizes Huntington production and administrative staff members each year. This year's recipients were Costumes Craft Artisan/Dyer Denise Wallace-Spriggs and Individual Giving Manager Annalise Baird. Trustee Bill McQuillan presented Artistic Director Peter DuBois with the Huntington's 2019 Wimberly Award. Aron Epstein presented the second 2019 Wimberly Award to his parents David and Betsy Epstein.
After dinner, Elliot Norton Award winner Maurice Emmanuel Parent took the stage to treat guests to Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat from Guys and Dolls. Broadway's Jenni Barber (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Wicked, The Nance) and Nick Sulfaro (Sunday in the Park with George and A Little Night Music at the Huntington) sang Move On' from Sunday in the Park with George as a tribute to Peter DuBois who directed both of them in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical at the Huntington in 2016. Aimee Doherty returned to the stage to sing a personalized rendition of George and Ira Gershwin's I Got Rhythm as a tribute to David and Betsy Epstein.
Event design was by Rafanelli Events, stage design by Alexander Dodge, lighting and sound design by High Output, rentals were provided by PEAK Event Services, event printing was donated by Noble Ford Productions, and the event was catered by MAX Ultimate Food. Corporate sponsors include John Moriarty & Associates, MAX Ultimate Food, Rafanelli Events, American Plumbing & Heating Corp., Bruner/Cott Architects, The HYM Investment Group, LLC, Leggat McCall, PR Restaurants/Panera Bread, Scape, Shawmut Design and Construction, and Toll Brothers.
David and Betsy Epstein have been Huntington Theatre Company supporters for almost 20 years. Currently, David is the chairman of the Huntington's Board of Trustees and Betsy is a trustee and chair of the Huntington's Education committee. David is president and founding partner of The Abbey Group, a Boston-based real estate development company, and a managing partner of the Boston Celtics. Betsy is a freelance writer and published author. Her work includes features in The Boston Globe, Cambridge Chronicle, several anthologies, and the recent book Still Becoming: Conversations with People in Their Sixties, co-authored with her sister-in-law Elinor Svenson. Both reside in Boston and together have three children and eight grandchildren. Both David and Betsy Epstein, through their philanthropic endeavors and fervent passion for the city of Boston, have demonstrated an unyielding commitment to the Huntington, their community, and the thriving future that lies ahead.
Peter DuBois is in his eleventh season as the Norma Jean Calderwood Artistic Director of the Huntington Theatre Company, where his directing credits include Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George and A Little Night Music; numerous world premieres such as Fall, Smart People, and Sons of the Prophet, and revivals of the classics Romeo and Juliet and Tartuffe. He has directed critically acclaimed productions and world premieres in New York, Boston, and London's West End. Peter has directed many talented, award-winning actors including Greg Kinnear (The Power of Duff), Sutton Foster (Modern Terrorism, Becky Shaw, Trust), Bobby Cannavale (Trust), Peter Dinklage (Richard III), Zach Braff (All New People), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Jack Goes Boating). Peter has directed multiple episodes of the podcast Modern Love, including its debut with Lauren Molina. His productions have been on the annual top ten lists of The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker, The Evening Standard, The Boston Globe, and Improper Bostonian. During his time as Artistic Director of the Huntington Theatre Company, Peter has been a devoted advocate of new work, giving burgeoning artists a home on Huntington stages and allowing their voices to be heard by our audiences.