Tramuto Foundation Awards $300,000 Grant To Ogunquit Playhouse
In a first-of-its kind partnership for professional regional theater in the US, the Tramuto Foundation and the Ogunquit Playhouse are teaming up to transform the theater experience by eliminating barriers that prevent participation in the performing arts.
The Maine-based Tramuto Foundation announced today that it has awarded its 2019 Bulldozer of the Year Award to the Ogunquit Playhouse, endowing a $300,000 grant to create the Tramuto Foundation and Ogunquit Playhouse Human Rights Partnership. The grant is the largest foundation award ever received by the Playhouse and will allow the venerable theater to deliver an innovative experience to individuals who currently face physical, emotional and cultural barriers that traditionally prevent this population from enjoying the live theater experience.
Three years ago, Donato Tramuto published his first book, Life's Bulldozer Moments: How Adversity Can Lead to Success in Life and Business. Now in its 7th printing, the book recounts several tragedies and hardships that Tramuto has endured, while illustrating how he overcame what he describes as 'life's bulldozer moments' to become a compassionate corporate leader and philanthropist who is focused on making life better for others.
Tramuto created the Tramuto Foundation in honor of his two close friends and their young son who died when their plane struck the 2nd World Trade Tower in New York City on September 11, 2001. Eighteen years later, the Foundation continues to provide annual scholarships for students in need and grants to non-profit organizations whose mission is focused on improving the lives of others.
"Through our Life's Bulldozer Moments Award, the Foundation seeks to honor the incredible work of the Ogunquit Playhouse, a revered New England art institution that helps create joy and spark passion in people of all ages and backgrounds," Tramuto said. "The Playhouse's ongoing work to make the world more vibrant and accessible to all individuals aligns perfectly with the mission of the Foundation. We continue to be great fans of the Playhouse and are thrilled to partner with its incredible staff and actors to deliver a unique and special experience to people across the region."
The Partnership was announced immediately prior to the Playhouse's production of Jersey Boys Friday evening.
"The theater is an experience like no other," said Bradford Kenney, Executive Artistic Director for the Playhouse. "Live performances have the ability to move people in ways that create deeper connections to themselves, to their community and to the world around them. We are so grateful to the Tramuto Foundation for this incredible partnership and are excited our work will help transform the way people of all abilities experience the magic of live theater."
The Human Rights Partnership grant to the Ogunquit Playhouse follows ongoing Tramuto Foundation's Human Rights grants to Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the organization's newest national initiative that Tramuto is leading, Workplace Dignity and Inclusion, where a $1 million dollar endowment was announced last December.
The first project to be undertaken by the Tramuto Foundation and Ogunquit Playhouse Human Rights Partnership is closely aligned with Tramuto's national focus on combatting social isolation, particularly among aging adults, who, because of physical disabilities or cultural circumstances, are normally unable to attend theater performances. Studies have shown that social isolation is a growing epidemic and carries with it health risks equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
The Playhouse will partner with the Wells Ogunquit Senior Center at Moody, the Institute for Integrative Aging at St. Joseph's College and Playhouse volunteers to offer 100 people in need deeply discounted tickets to an August 22nd matinee of 'Murder on the Orient Express.' In addition to the show, the Playhouse will transport individuals to the venue, where they will be treated to a free buffet lunch and will take part in roundtable discussions with actors and staff about the show. They will also receive a copy of the book by Agatha Christie on which the show is based and will be provided with the tools to create and maintain relationships with their fellow theater patrons.
Later this year, the group will be invited to come back together to re-connect and discuss the differences between the play and the book. The follow-up meeting is intended to help facilitate lasting friendships and a love of the arts.
In addition to the engagement project, the Human Rights Partnership will focus on making the theater and live performances more inclusive of people with disabilities. For example, the Playhouse will emphasize storytelling that illustrates individuals who have overcome adversity.
Through the years, Artistic Director Kenney envisions producing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted performances on the main stage, casting differently-abled actors, producing autism-sensory friendly performances and using auto description for visually impaired attendees. The Tramuto Foundation and the Ogunquit Playhouse have a history of working together to empower individuals and expose them to the joy of the arts. In 2016, the Foundation gave the Playhouse a $50,000 grant to provide tuition assistance for underprivileged children seeking to attend the popular summer theatre program, which provides weeklong theatrical training to youth of all ages and culminates in a production performed on the Playhouse's main stage.
The Tramuto Foundation also previously funded the purchase of state of the art assisted listening devices for the Playhouse's patrons.