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George Street Gala Honors Seward And Cecelia Joyce Johnson

By: Apr. 16, 2019
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Seward Johnson, "America's most popular sculptor;" his wife, writer and producer Cecelia Joyce Johnson; and the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders will receive the Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award during George Street Playhouse's annual gala on May 5.

"We are thrilled to honor Seward and Cecelia Joyce Johnson this year," said George Street Playhouse Artistic Director David Saint. "Their noted philanthropy has benefitted not only the arts world in New Jersey but beyond."

Internationally renowned artist Seward Johnson, whose lifelike bronze and monumental figures are familiar sights throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, is often hailed as "America's most popular sculptor."

He has made a significant impact on the landscape of public art, with more than 1,600 works in cast bronze featured in public spaces, sculpture gardens, private collections, and museums across the globe. Key among his work is the Icons Revisited series, including Embracing Peace, the Times Square embracing couple, and the head-turning Forever Marilyn.

His impact on the arts goes beyond his personal works and includes his founding of the Johnson Atelier School of Sculpture and the spectacular Grounds For Sculpture. He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2014.

Cecelia Joyce Johnson is a published author and producer. Her theatre work includes several off-Broadway plays including Savannah Bay at Theater for the New City, Fathers and Sons by Richard Hoehler at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row, and Omnium Gatherum, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Her work in music includes creative collaborations with Larry Moss and Clint Holmes at Cafe Carlyle and a series developed for PBS on Chopin in collaboration with Australian Pianist Alan Kogosowski. She also produced the album Chris Gillespie Live at the Carlyle with Chris Gillespie.

"We are also honoring the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for their unprecedented landmark commitment to the arts," George Street's Managing Director Kelly Ryman said. "This is epitomized by the establishment of the Middlesex County Arts and Cultural Trust Fund that has helped George Street Playhouse bring live theatre to residents of Middlesex County and audiences throughout the state."

The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, under the leadership of Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios, and Freeholder Kenneth Armwood, Chair of Business Development and Education, made an unprecedented landmark commitment to the arts by establishing the Middlesex County Arts and Cultural Trust Fund in 2015, and by approving a strategic Regional Cultural Plan in 2017, to guide investment of significant resources and help bring arts and history to greater audiences.

The Plan serves as a roadmap to guide the County through the year 2020 and achieve its aspiration, that all residents of Middlesex County have the opportunity to access and participate in the arts, culture and history that can enrich their lives.

The Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award, first presented to former Governor Thomas Kean in 1990 and then named in his honor, pays tribute to an individual, corporation, or foundation whose dedication to the arts enhances the cultural life of the citizens of New Jersey.

The black-tie gala, beginning at 5 PM at the Heldrich in New Brunswick, NJ, will be attended by a number of dignitaries and feature a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner. A special cabaret performance punctuates the evening and will feature stars of stage and screen in addition to favorites from the George Street Playhouse stage.

This year's event is chaired by George Street Playhouse trustee Kenneth M. Fisher. The annual silent auction is chaired by Janice Haggerty and Gabriella Vajtay; sponsorships by James N. Heston and Penelope E. Lattimer, Ph.D; the commemorative gala journal by Lora Tremayne and Jocelyn Schwartzman; and tables and tickets by Janice G. Stolar. They are joined by committee members Joseph P. Benincasa, Joan Campbell, Sharon Karmazin, and Tracey O'Reggio Clark.

For further information, call 732-846-2895, ext. 144, or visit

About George Street Playhouse

Originally located in an abandoned supermarket on the corner of George and Albany Streets, George Street Playhouse was the first professional theatre in New Brunswick and played a major role in the revitalization of the downtown area. In 1984, the Playhouse moved to a renovated YMCA on Livingston Avenue, and in 2017 took temporary residence in the former Agricultural Museum during construction of its new home.

Beginning with the 2019-20 Season, George Street Playhouse will move to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick. Featuring two state-of-the-art theatres and myriad amenities, the NBPAC will mark a new era in the esteemed history of George Street Playhouse.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint since 1998, and Kelly Ryman -- Managing Director since 2013, the Playhouse produces groundbreaking new works, inspiring productions of the classics, and hit Broadway plays and musicals that speak to the heart and mind, with an unwavering commitment to producing new work. As New Brunswick's first producing theatre, George Street Playhouse became the cornerstone of the revitalization of the City's arts and cultural landscape. With its 45-year history of producing nationally renowned theatre, the Playhouse continues to fill a unique theatre and arts education role in the city, state and greater metropolitan region.

The Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway, including the Outer Critics' Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger; the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill; and the Broadway hit and Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at the Playhouse during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays. In 2015, It Shoulda Been You opened on Broadway and Joe DiPietro's Clever Little Lies opened off-Broadway. Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. In 2018, George Street Playhouse was represented on Broadway with Gettin' the Band Back Together which premiered on the Playhouse mainstage in 2013. American Son, produced by George Street Playhouse in 2017, opened on Broadway in 2018 starring Kerry Washington and Stephen Pasqual, and will appear on Netflix.

In addition to the mainstage season, the Playhouse's education department provides extensive programming for children, youth and adults. Partnering with administrators and educators throughout New Jersey, the Playhouse provides unique education experiences that both reinforce classroom curriculum and investigate issues such as bullying, diversity, immigration, health and wellness, and the rising epidemic of opioid addiction.

George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.


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