George Street Playhouse Gala Honors Dr. Penelope Lattimer, Celebrates Arthur Laurents
George Street Playhouse's Annual Gala Benefit, held Sunday, May 6, at the Heldrich in downton New Brunswick, saw GSP Board President Dr. Penelope Lattimer honored with the Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award. The black-tie event also celebrated the work of renowned playwright and friend of the Playhouse, the late Arthur Laurents, who would have turned 100 this year, with performances of songs from West Side Story, Gypsy, La Cage aux Folles, and his other Broadway hits.
The Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award pays tribute to an individual, corporation or foundation whose dedication to the arts enhances the cultural life of the citizens of New Jersey. Dr. Lattimer was this year's recipient for her career as a distinguished educator and a leading voice for the arts and arts integration in education in New Jersey. Dr. Lattimer's passion for the arts carried over into her service as a board trustee for several prominent New Jersey arts organizations, including George Street Playhouse, Crossroads Theatre, American Repertory Ballet/Princeton Ballet School, Grounds for Sculpture, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
GSP Artistic Director David Saint hosted the evening's Cabaret, which featured performances from Michele Ragusa (Broadway's Young Frankenstein, Urinetown), Lee Roy Reams (Broadway's 42nd Street, The Producers), Ross Lekites (Broadway's Frozen, Kinky Boots), Solea Pfeifer (West Coast tour of Hamilton, TV's Scandal), and renowned tenor Richard Troxell (New York City Center Encores! Do I Hear A Waltz?, Lt. Pinkerton in Frédéric Mitterrand's 1995 film version of Madama Butterfly). Representing George Street Playhouse's 2017-18 season were Laiona Michelle (Broadway's Amazing Grace, GSP's American Hero), Lindsay Nicole Chambers (Broadway's Lysistrata Jones, GSP's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) and Kally Duling (Broadway's Fun Home, GSP's American Hero).
Each year, the Gala draws corporate, civic and social leaders from throughout the region and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to support George Street Playhouse's world-class mainstage productions and nationally recognized educational programs. A silent auction is one of the highlights of the Gala, and offers tickets to hard-to-get Broadway shows and top sports venues, luxury vacation trips and getaways, fine-dining experiences and much more.
Sponsors for the evening included Joan and Robert Campbell, James N. Heston, WithumSmith+Brown, JoAnn and Ken Fisher, Sharon Karmazin, David Saint, TD Bank, PSE&G, Flemington Car & Truck Country (Princeton Land Rover, Clinton Honda, Somerset Patriots), and Nassau Communications.
The 2018 Gala Committee was chaired by Kenneth M. Fisher Jr., Hillsborough, N.J., and included Joseph P. Benincasa, Stockton, N.J.; Joan Campbell, North Brunswick, N.J.; Janice Haggerty, Bedminster, N.J.; GSP Board Chair James N. Heston, Metuchen, N.J.; Sharon Karmazin, Milltown, N.J.; Penelope E. Lattimer, Ph.D., New Brunswick, N.J.; Tracey O'Reggio Clark, High Bridge, N.J.; W. Burton ("Tripp") Salisbury, Ocean, N.J.; Jocelyn Schwartzman, East Brunswick, N.J.; Janice Stolar, East Brunswick, N.J.; Lora Tremayne, Somerset, N.J.; and Gabriella Vajtay, Somerset, N.J.
George Street Playhouse is a nationally recognized theatre, presenting an acclaimed mainstage season to nearly 30,000 patrons annually, while providing an artistic home for established and emerging theatre artists. Its leadership consists of Artistic Director David Saint and Managing Director Kelly Ryman. Currently located on the Cook Campus of Rutgers University, George Street Playhouse will take residence in a new performing arts center scheduled to open for the 2019-20 season. Founded in 1974, 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 GSP during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays. In 2015, George Street Playhouse was represented by two productions in New York with the Broadway production of It Shoulda Been You and Joe DiPietro's Clever Little Lies, which opened off-Broadway that same year. Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. Gettin' the Band Back Together, which premiered at GSP in 2013, is set to open on Broadway in Summer 2018. In addition to its mainstage season, GSP's Touring Educational Theatre features issue-oriented productions that are seen by more than 35,000 students annually.
Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.
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.