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New Jersey's largest nonprofit fundraiser honors leaders in the arts, the state, the City of Newark and the community
The 20th Annual Spotlight Gala of the Women's Association of NJPAC salutes the music of Stephen Sondheim with a cast of Broadway superstars, including James MonroeIglehart (Aladdin), Judy Kuhn (Fun Home), Vanessa Williams (Into the Woods), Tony Yazbeck (On the Town, Gypsy), and special appearance by Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), under the musical direction of Seth Rudetsky
In 1930 Manhattan, George and Ira Gershwin opened Strike Up the Band on Broadway, while ingénue Ethel Merman stepped into the spotlight in Girl Crazy. Not far from the glow of the marquees, Etta and Herbert Sondheim became the co-producers of a son who would revolutionize American musical theater.
An Evening of Song in Celebration of Stephen Sondheim's 85th Birthday is a rousing kick-off to NJPAC's fall season as well as the principal benefit event for programs of the Department of Arts Education and overall operations of the Arts Center. The centerpiece of the black-tie festivities is a star-studded, 90-minute performance and awards ceremony in elegant Prudential Hall.
Sondheim, the recipient of multiple Tony and Grammy awards, an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize, has written music, lyrics or both to such quintessential musicals as West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Into the Woods, and Sunday in the Park with George.
A sophisticated, modern décor is planned for the event, which begins with a cocktail and networking reception in a tent adjacent to the building. Guests enter Prudential Hall for the evening's performance, and are later seated for a gourmet dinner at tables placed throughout the Arts Center. A fabulous array of desserts is arranged in the Prudential Hall lobby for a sweet conclusion. Celebrity spinner DJ D-Nice will purvey the music before curtain and for post-dinner dancing.
The 2015 awards honorees are Nicolas Berggruen and Ron Beit, recipients of The Chambers Award for Service to the Community and to the Arts for their work to create Teachers Village in downtown Newark; Dr. Robert and Mrs. Patricia Curvin, recipients of The Ryan Award for Commitment to NJPAC and Leadership in the City of Newark; and United Airlines, recipient of The Vagelos Award for Corporate Commitment to the Arts.
This year's Gala Co-Chairs are Women's Association Trustees of the Board Tenagne Girma-Jeffries, founder and CEO of The Cultivation Group, and Robin Cruz McClearn, Esq., Principal of East Avenue Advisors, LLC. The Gala Dinner Co-Chairs are NJPAC Board Members Thasunda B. Duckett, CEO of Chase Auto Finance, and Patrick C. Dunican, Jr., Esq., Chairman and Managing Director of Gibbons P.C.
"The Spotlight Gala is critical to the Women's Association's annual fundraising efforts for the general operating support of one of the finest arts and cultural institutions in New Jersey, as well as support for its Arts Education program. At the same time, we're able to offer a six-hour window of extraordinary networking and connection-making to the top executives and leading philanthropists in the New Jersey metro area," said Girma-Jeffries.
Christine C. Gilfillan, President of The MCJ Amelior Foundation, concludes a four-year tenure as Board President of the Women's Association of NJPAC at this year's celebration.
"I've had the unique advantage of serving as president of the WA for four years," said Gilfillan. "The incomparable dedication and spirit of our board of 38 trustees and our membership of over 2,000 women is what motivates us to strategize the future of our fundraising efforts for the Gala and beyond. We're looking at our third decade of promoting, funding and advocating for NJPAC with great optimism and enthusiasm."
Ticket packages for the full Gala, including premium seating for 10 people in Prudential Hall, are available at the following levels: Vice-Chair Table ($50,000), Platinum Table ($35,000), Gold Table ($25,000), and Silver Table ($15,000). Single tickets for the complete evening range from $1,000 to $5,000.
For full evening tickets, call Gail P. Stone at (973)-353-7043 or email the Women's Association of NJPAC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For performance-only tickets ($50), please visit njpac.org, call 1-(888)-466-5722, or visit the NJPAC Box Office at One Center Street in downtown Newark.
Ron Beit is the founding partner and CEO of RBH Group, LLC, President of RBH Management, LLC, asset and property management companies; as well as managing member of RBH-TRB Newark Holdings, LLC. Beit has acquired, developed, rehabilitated, and/or operated over 1 million square feet of existing commercial and residential real estate in numerous projects throughout the U.S. and more than 6 million additional developable square feet in institutional-grade sites throughout downtown Newark.
Nicolas Berggruen is the Chairman of the Berggruen Institute, which is engaged in issues of political governance, philosophy and culture. He is also the Chairman of Berggruen Holdings, a private company, the direct investment vehicle of The Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation. Through the Berggruen Institute on Governance, an independent, nonpartisan think tank, he encourages the study, design and implementation of systems of good governance. He is a founder of the institute's 21st Century Council; a member of the Think Long Committee for California; and a member of the Council for the Future of Europe. The Berggruen Institute of Philosophy and Culture works on bridging Eastern and Western cultures, to develop fresh ideas through comparative and interdisciplinary work and relate those insights to the pressing issues of our day.
Patricia Hall Curvin's first teaching job was at Barringer High School in Newark; she was later transferred to East Side High School, where she was an English teacher and guidance counselor. During the civil rights movement, she supported her husband, Robert, and joined many of the CORE efforts to open opportunities for minorities. She was an assistant dean at Rutgers Livingston College, then dean of students at the college of nursing in Newark. In 1988, she joined the faculty of Arts High School, where she also was chair of the Department of Humanities. Curvin served as a trustee of the Newark Museum for nearly 20 years, an early leader of the Newark Arts Council, and a former trustee of the Newark Boys and Girls Club. She currently is an advisor to the Chad School Foundation.
Dr. Robert Curvin is a world-renowned expert on urban politics, economic development and social policy. He is a Distinguished Senior Policy Fellow at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Curvin is the co-author of "Blackout Looting" - bout the 1977 New York blackout - and the author of "Inside Newark: Decline, Rebellion, and the Search for Transformation." He was previously President of the Greentree Foundation; Vice President and Director of the Ford Foundation's Urban Poverty Program; Dean of the Graduate School of Management and Urban Professions at the New School for Social Research; and Associate Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, among other positions. A member of NJPAC's Council of Trustees since 2007, Curvin previously served as Director Emeritus of The Charles H. Revson Foundation, Inc.
United Airlines is based in Chicago with a major hub in Newark. United demonstrates its commitment to the communities it serves by supporting NJPAC. An enthusiastic patron of the arts across the country, United proudly serves NJPAC as the Official Airline. United is a long-time supporter of the arts, education, health and the environment, and is committed to fostering a company culture that treats employees with dignity and respect and promotes open and honest communication with employees, customers and partners. United and its United Express regional partner airlines operate an average of 5,055 flights a day to more than 370 airports across six continents.
Spotlight Gala 2015 Artists
James Monroe Iglehart won a 2014 Tony Award for his performance in "Aladdin" and originated the role of Bobby in the Tony-winning musical "Memphis," both on Broadway. He has appeared in "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Gotham" and "The Good Wife." Iglehart is a member of the hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme.
Judy Kuhn received a Tony nomination for featured actress this year for the musical "Fun Home." Also on Broadway, she has been nominated for Tonys for the Roundabout's hit revival of "She Loves Me," "Chess" and "Les Miserables." A favorite on concert stages throughout the world, she performed the title roles in Disney's "Pocahontas" and "Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World."
Vanessa Williams' critically acclaimed work in film, television, stage and recording has been recognized with four Emmy nominations, 17 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination for "Into the Woods," an Oscar for Best Original Song ("Colors of the Wind") and seven NAACP Image Awards. She returned to Broadway in 2014 for a special engagement in "After Midnight" and co-starred in "The Trip to Bountiful" in 2013.
Tony Yazbeck was a Tony nominee this year for leading actor in the musical "On the Town." For two years, as a child actor, he was seen in the Broadway revival of "Gypsy" with Tyne Daly. In addition to being cast in a subsequent revival of "Gypsy," this time starring Patti LuPone, Yazbeck has appeared on New York stages in "Chicago," "White Christmas" and "A Chorus Line."
Seth Rudetsky has worked as the music director, pianist or conductor for many of Broadway's biggest stars: Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Brian Stokes Mitchell among others. He spent many years as a pianist on Broadway, playing such shows as "Les Miserables," "Grease" and "Ragtime." Rudetsky currently divides his time between his hosting duties on SiriusXM and touring North America with his show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He recently co-authored and starred off-Broadway in "DISASTER!," a 1970s disaster movie musical.
Len Cariou, currently seen on the hit CBS series "Blue Bloods," is a distinguished member of the Theatre Hall of Fame, a Tony Award winner (Best Actor, "Sweeney Todd"), a Tony nominee ("Applause," "A Little Night Music"), and a star of film and television. Just a few of his other Broadway credits include "Teddy & Alice," "Neil Simon's The Dinner Party" and "Proof."
Since its inception in 1994, the Women's Association of NJPAC has raised more than $44 million in support of general operations and arts education programs at NJPAC. The Gala is the Arts Center's largest annual benefit. The WA is a self-supporting, volunteer organization composed of more than 2,000 diverse members from across New Jersey and the New York metro area who are actively engaged in regional and national business endeavors, politics, and cultural and philanthropic causes. As NJPAC ambassadors, WA members seek to increase awareness and educate the public about NJPAC, and provide financial support to programs and educational activities through their annual Spring Luncheon, Spotlight Gala in the fall, and other strategic endeavors and programming.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is among the largest performing arts centers in the United States and is the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey - where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state's and the world's best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 9 million visitors (including over 1.5 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.