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Educational Theatre Foundation Raises Record Setting Donations from Theatre Alive! Gala

The January 28 event has raised over $180,000 to support school theatre programs in need — a record for the foundation.

Educational Theatre Foundation Raises Record Setting Donations from Theatre Alive! Gala

More than 4,000 theatre supporters tuned in to watch as the Educational Theatre Foundation's Theatre Alive! gala honored award-winning director, producer, and actor Kenny Leon with the second annual Craig Zadan Theatre for Life Award, and Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel accepted the annual Standing Ovation Award on behalf of The Shubert Foundation. The January 28 event has raised over $180,000 to support school theatre programs in need - a record for the foundation.

Hosted by Nia Vardalos and John Stamos, the evening focused on four main themes that speak to the value of and need for theatre education: Purpose, Innovation, Giving and Hope.

Kicking off Purpose, Amber Riley sang "Home" from The Wiz. Her performance was followed by a look at the work of the Foundation and culminated in honoring the 2020 educator inductees into the Hall of Fame. Chasten Buttigieg, teacher, writer, and LGBTQ rights advocate, announced the recipients saying, "As a student, the arts changed my life. And as a teacher I have seen it change the lives of my own students. So, thank you all for supporting the Educational Theatre Foundation and all they do to bring the theatre arts to kids across this country who otherwise wouldn't have access to it."

Actress, comedian, writer, producer, and playwright Tina Fey introduced the innovation theme with a clip highlighting theatre educators and students who are keeping theatre alive by performing online, outside, or safely inside with masks. As one student said, "While it proved challenging at times, we learned that no matter the circumstances, nothing could stop us from doing what we loved." Closing out the segment was Audra McDonald performing "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music.

During Giving, Nia Vardalos and John Stamos outlined how various donation amounts would impact students. Next up was the Standing Ovation award to The Shubert Organization. As Robert Wankel

reminded the audience while accepting the award, "Arts education has been removed from schools across the country because of the lack of funds. We need to collectively, at all levels, work to bring arts back to the school. It is truly life changing." Actor, singer, comedian, game show host, television personality and Thespian from Troupe 4276, Wayne Brady came on to talk about what theatre meant to him, saying, "What do I know about giving? I know that theatre gave me a life...it truly and honestly changed me for the good, forever."

To open the final segment of the broadcast, Hope, Nia Vardalos and John Stamos were joined by Stamos' junior high school drama teacher, Mike McGinnis. After a chat with Mr. McGinnis, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson were introduced to present the Craig Zadan Theatre for Life award to Kenny Leon. In accepting the award, he said, "I am looking for a day when every child in America can have a little piece of theatre in their daily educational lives." Closing the evening was Jennifer Hudson singing "I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray.

Those unable to catch the broadcast can view the highlights on the Educational Theatre Foundation's YouTube channel.

ETF raises funds so that more underserved schools can provide opportunities in theatre for their students. Donations to keep school theatre alive can be made at the Educational Theatre Foundation's website.

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