As president of the Dramatist Guild Foundation pointed out: There’s a lot of bad news happening in the world today, but there were a lot of bad things happening in Ancient Greece, and the Greeks held on to Euripedes. There were a lot of bad things happening in Elizabethan England, but they held on to Shakespeare. “Who should we hold onto?” he asked. “When the bad new is happening again 100 years from now, what will the president of the Dramatists Guild Foundation be telling folks?”
On November 6, creative leaders of the theatre community joined together to raise money for the Dramatists Guild Foundation and to honor director-producer Harold Prince, president and CEO of Shiseido Americas Marc Rey, and fashion designer Jason Wu. The Foundation supports writers through financial and artistic aid and, in some cases, emergency resources. During its over 50-year history, the organization has served over 16,000 writers and students. Through DGF Fellows, emerging artists pair with professional mentors to find their voice; through Traveling Masters, students across the country learn through master classes and writing events; through Music Hall songwriters find a piano and a space free of charge; and DGF also provides grants and more programming to ensure the future of art.
Throughout the evening at Gotham Hall, attendees heard from the many artists who have benefitted from the programs of DGF, including Jason Robert Brown, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. “I’m endlessly grateful to the Dramatists Guild Foundation through my career for all the support they’ve given me,” said Brown, before launching into a new song called “Cassandra” from his upcoming Daisy Prince-helmed musical The Connector.
When introducing Tony winner Beth Leavel’s performance from The Drowsy Chaperone, writer Lisa Lambert thanked the Foundation for time. “It took us eight years,” she said of successfully creating the Tony-winning Broadway musical. “But that time gave us what we needed most: clarity.”
“We know first hand what this organization does for writers,” said Pasek via a pre-recorded video screened at the gala. “To think that the people who wrote Ragtime were going to teach you” was unfathomable and fortuitous for him and Justin Paul as they participated in the Legacy Project.
“You’re not just supporting the writer,” added Paul. “You’re supporting the idea that a person can come see a show and … open a relationship or change their world.”
Flip through photos of the night below:
Hosted by John Mulaney (Oh Hello on Broadway), the performances also featured Cheyenne Jackson and Ramin Karimloo reprising their duet of “Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden, which they performed in concert at David Geffen Hall in 2016; Bonnie Milligan and Alexandra Socha singing selections from the upcoming Go-Go’s musical; Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli singing “Children and Art” and “Children Will Listen”—introduced by Stephen Sondheim himself; Norm Lewis’ rendition of “Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera; and a finale of Alex Newell singing “Mama Will Provide” from the upcoming revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Once On This Island.
Designer Wu and businessman Rey expressed their gratitude for recognition early in the evening; Prince was the final honoree, introduced by the legendary Carol Burnett. “You’re the brother I never had,” she said through tears. “Hal, we love you and if you’re looking for your glasses, they’re on your forehead.”
An icon of musical theatre excellence and collaboration and the product of a strong mentorship, Prince expressed his gratitude to the Foundation. “When writers get the support they need, the world benefits,” he said. “It was so much easier to make a career in this business. But thanks to DGF, they’re making it so much easier for the next generation.”