Theatre Forward, a non-profit arts organization supporting regional theatres, will hold its annual gala April 4. As previously announced, the event will honor Tony- and Obie Award–winning director Kenny Leon and Prudential Financial.
Theatre Forward supports 19 regional theatres and their efforts to improve theatre accessibility and community enrichment with a goal of creating positive social change. Read the interview below with Theatre Forward Executive Director Gretchen Shugart to learn more about the event and Theatre Forward's important work.
What role does regional theatre play in the theatre ecosystem of the U.S.?
Theatres are an important part of the cultural fabric of America. They inspire and drive local commerce, enhance the quality of life in cities, and employ both businesspeople and artists. Theatres provide a forum for free speech and are places where people can gather to listen and learn from other people’s stories. In addition to the work performed onstage, many regional theatres engage in social outreach to provide services that lift up individuals within their communities.
Theatre Forward’s member theatres are widely known for their artistic excellence and exemplary leadership. Many of the shows we see on Broadway were developed in regional theatres across America. Collectively over the last 45 years, Theatre Forward member theatres have sent hundreds of shows to Broadway, accounting for dozens of Tony Awards and hundreds of nominations.
How does Theatre Forward support its 19 regional theatres?
For more than 40 years, Theatre Forward has provided an efficient conduit for donors large and small to have an impact on theatres and their communities across the nation. Theatre Forward efficiently raises, distributes, facilitates, and manages grants for its member theatres striving for artistic excellence and initiatives that promote accessibility, lifelong learning, and positive social change, with a particular focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion. An example of this is Theatre Forward’s Bank of America ACTivate Awards, a grants program which supports theatres’ efforts to become more equitable.
How does Kenny Leon exemplify Theatre Forward’s values?
Kenny Leon has been working his entire life to bring important stories to the public and to broaden the audiences for those stories. Whether it’s on a regional or Broadway stage, television or the big screen, his work is for everyone. Accessibility, inclusion, anti-racism—these are values we support.
How does Prudential serve regional theatre in the U.S.?
Prudential has publicly recognized the important role that our cultural institutions, and theatre in particular, play in society. Corporate support for the arts does not come easily. Prudential’s support for Curtain Up! and regional theatres raises our awareness and reminds us that the arts are vital to society.
What can attendees expect from the gala festivities and performances?
Many of our most beloved theatre artists—Kristin Chenoweth, Norm Lewis, DeWitt Fleming Jr., Brittney Johnson, and Phylicia Rashad, to name a few—are joining us to sing, dance, and pay tribute to Kenny Leon, Prudential Financial, and Theatre Forward’s member theatres. Following a two-year hiatus from theatre, we are excited to gather near Times Square at the beautiful Edison Ballroom for cocktails, a three-course dinner, and a joyous celebration.
How can individuals support regional theatre?
can support regional theatres with ticket purchases and donations.
Those wishing to support theatre on a national level can donate to
Theatre Forward and/or attend our gala on April 4, which benefits our
To purchase tickets or donate go to TheatreForward.org.