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Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit

On May 2nd, The 52nd Street Project held their annual benefit, LAUGHING MATTERS, Kids' Stand-up, Adults Deliver at the Edison Ballroom in New York. The raucous sold-out event hosted by comedians Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan, was The Project's most successful to date with over 350 people in attendance, raising funds for the Project's academic and artistic mentoring programming. The Project makes a difference in the lives of Hell's Kitchen (Clinton) kids by pairing them with theater professionals who mentor them through the creation of original theater. Scroll down for photos!

In addition to Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan, John Bowman, Jim Gaffigan and Jessica Williams were among the professional comedians who performed hilarious routines written by Project kids Milen Tokarev (age 13), Coleman Williams (age 11), Karen Tineo (age 13), Jayla Alvarez (age 13), and Magalis Fabian Viñas (age 11).

The 52nd Street Project was founded in 1981 by actor/playwright and 1994 MacArthur Fellow Willie Reale in response to a deepening need to improve the quality of life for New York's inner-city children. Reale, an actor, playwright, and company member of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), used his company privileges to reach out to the children of the neighborhood by creating theatrical endeavors specifically for them. This was done with the cooperation and support of EST and its across-the-street-neighbor, the Police Athletic League's Duncan Center. The Project is now an independent not-for-profit organization that creates over eighty new plays and serves over 130 children every year.

The 52nd Street Project has been a place where many preeminent theater-makers have volunteered their efforts to mentor kids from Hell's Kitchen. To name just a few: Denise Burse, Billy Crudup, Peter Dinklage, Edie Falco, Peter Jay Fernandez, Nancy Giles, Marva Hicks, James McDaniel, Frances McDormand, Cynthia Nixon, Oliver Platt, Martha Plimpton and Lili Taylor.

The Project is about making children proud of themselves. The Project is not about teaching children to act, although they will learn to. It is not about teaching them to write plays, although they will learn that as well. What it is about is giving a kid an experience of success. It is about giving a kid an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within that he or she alone possesses, something that cannot be taken away.

In order to make The 52nd Street Project experience available to children in other locations, The Project has published a manual and other supporting materials, which have been distributed as far as Vancouver and South Africa. There are now projects underway across the country in places such as Los Angeles; Chicago; Trenton, NJ; Williamstown, MA; Providence, RI; and London, England. For more information, visit www.52project.org, like The 52nd Street Project on Facebook or follow @52ndStProject on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Lia Chang

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
The 52nd Street Project comedy writers for LAUGHING MATTERS, Kids' Stand-up Adults Deliver - Milen Tokarev, age 13; Coleman Williams, age 11; Karen Tineo, age 13; Jayla Alvarez, age 13; Magalis Fabian Vinas, age 11.

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
The company of LAUGHING MATTERS, Kids' Stand-up, Adults Deliver: Jessica Williams, Jim Gaffigan, Karen Tineo, Jayla Alvarez, Kathleen Madigan, Lewis Black, Coleman Williams, John Bowman, Magalis Fabian Vinas & Milen Tokarev.

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Project member Magalis Fabian Vinas, age 11, in the Comedy Writer chair while Jessica Williams performs Magalis' stand-up.

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Project member Milen Tokarev, age 13, in the Comedy Writer chair while John Bowman performs Milen's stand-up.

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Project member Jayla Alvarez, age 13, in the Comedy Writer chair while Kathleen Madigan performs Jayla's stand-up.

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Lewis Black performed the stand-up comedy written by Project member Coleman Williams, age 11

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Project member Karen Tineo, age 13, wrote stand-up that was performed by Jim Gaffigan, then they took a bow

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
52nd Street Project

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
John Bowman, Jackie Holtzman, KeiLyn Durrell Jones, Marinda Anderson, David Costabile, Eliza Baldi, Michael Salinas and Annie Purcell.

Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project's LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Denise Burse, 52nd Street Project Founder Willie Reale and Peter Jay Fernandez



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