The American Theatre Wing's chairman of the board, Isabelle Stevenson, a prominent figure in theatrical circles for more than 35 years, will be honored by the Jewish National Fund Dec. 10 with their Tree of Life Award.
Jim Dale (Broadway’s Barnum) will be master of ceremonies for the dinner and award program to be held in the Astor Ballroom of the Marriott Marquis Hotel starting with a cocktail reception at 6 P.M. Lucie Arnaz is serving as benefit chair.
Honorary chairs for the event will include Gerald Schoenfeld, president of the Shubert Organization and his wife Pat; Carl Reiner; Broadway producer Frederick M. Zollo, Jack Friedman, Kenneth Seeman Giniger and John and Pat Rosenwald. Broadway producer Stewart F. Lane is Tribute Journal Chair. In addition to Dale and Arnaz, Karen Ziemba (Contact), multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald, Kate Burton (Broadway’s Hedda Gabler, Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me, Kate; Ragtime) and stage and screen star Tony LoBianco will be among the participating artists.
This year's gala marks the 100th anniversary of the JNF. Funds raised will go toward the planting of trees as a living memorial for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in the United States in the new September 11th Victims Forest in Jerusalem’s American Independence Park. The dedication will be attended by U.S. embassy dignitaries, Israeli political figures and JNF's leadership in Israel. The forest was inaugurated Sept. 23, concurrent with the United States Day of prayer in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in the U.S.
JNF's 1,500-acre American Independence Park attracts thousands of visitors daily. It was conceived in 1975 as a gift to the American people to mark 200 years of American independence and the shared values of the United States and Israel. Previous Tree of Life honorees include former Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Colin Powell, the late Isaac Stern, the late Brandon Tartikoff of NBC, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Elizabeth Dole and publisher Mort Zuckerman.
Before becoming chairman of American Theatre Wing, Mrs. Stevenson, who will be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in January, served as the Wing's longest-sitting president (1966-1998). She generated great support from the theater and civic community to elevate theatre arts and its institutions to new heights.
Not only is the Wing involved in the annual Tony Awards, which it founded and now co-presents with the League of American Theatres and Producers, but under her leadership it began numerous outreach programs, such as hospital entertainment and annual grants to Off-Broadway and regional theater groups.
One of the Wing's most popular programs, the bi-annual Working in the Theatre seminars, was started by Stevenson 25 years ago. Broadway's current Who's Who discuss their work and how they got their first breaks. The seminars are broadcast locally and available on tape to schools and colleges as an archive of theatrical history.
Eight years ago, under Mrs. Stevenson's leadership and with the support of Broadway producers and the New York City Board of Education, the Wing took theatre into public schools with the Introduction to Broadway program. Craft and acting union members participate in seminars to advise on theatrical careers and students are able to attend Broadway shows at the bargain price of $2.50 a ticket. Prior to her work at the Wing, Mrs. Stevenson was a New York dancer and a celebrated performer in Paris, where she briefly swept the spotlight away from Josephine Baker, London and Sydney. On her marriage to publisher John Stevenson, she studied fashion and design and later edited books on crafts and decorating.
For reservations or more information, contact Norma Balass at the JNF, (212) 879-9305 X. 502.
— by Ellis Nassour