Broadway producers, writers, actors, and regional theater directors mingled with members of the corporate world inside the massive Midtown headquarters of UBS on Friday. At the National Corporate Theater Fund's (NCTF) tenth annual Broadway Roundtable, attendees ate steak and listened to Really Really playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo, actress Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck, Rose), actor Santino Fontana (Cinderella), American Theatre Wing Executive Director Heather Hitchens, Producer Daryl Roth (Kinky Boots), and Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith give their own personal snapshots of the theater world, panel-discussion style.
Fontana discussed the profound impact theater education has had on his career, which began to develop when he was accepted into the Guthrie Theater and the University of Minnesota's Actor Training Program. Smith discussed the National Civil War Project – a series of collaborations between Universities and regional theaters -- and said we should expect more academic alliances in the years to come. Dukakis spoke about her acting choices.
"I want to be scared," she said. "I want to be frightened. I play with my grandchildren to have fun. When I go on stage, I don't want to have fun. I want something to grab me."
Before the panel, NCTF's Executive Director, Bruce E. Whitacre, told TheaterMania that the afternoon was a way to thank the many people that have contributed to the organization.
"What we try to do is bring together producers, writers, actors, journalists, and so on, to really give people a full spectrum of what the theater season is like and what the scene is right now," he said. "It's also a kick-off for our gala, which we've announced today."
On April 29, the annual NCTF Chairman's Awards Gala will honor Vanessa Williams, American Express, and five regional theaters celebrating their 50th anniversaries: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Guthrie Theater, Hartford Stage, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Trinity Repertory Company. "Each of them are very distinct theaters, and if you look, the five together actually give you a picture of the whole spectrum of what regional theater can be," Whitacre said.
Actor/Star Trek and Facebook hero George Takei, who leads the cast of the Broadway-bound musical Allegiance, will emcee the event. The gala, at New York City's Pierre Hotel, will raise funds for NCTF's 19 member theaters, which are connected through the organizations Impact Creativity initiative, the only national arts education platform in the U.S, which funds everything from student matinees to play-writing programs to workshops with kids on the Autism spectrum.
"It is our privilege to celebrate fifty years of achievement by these outstanding organizations and …these resident theatres across America," Whitacre said.