By Carrie Chapter, Philadelphia Theatre Company
On April 30th, Philadelphia Theatre Company held our annual Gala at the lavish Hyatt at the Bellevue ballroom. This is a really special time for the entire company because it is one of the rare moments where our administrative staff converges with our production team for an enormous one-night extravaganza. Yet, its one-day presentation is the culmination of months-upon-months of preparation on all fronts. In short, it takes a village.
Luckily, the PTC family is one heck of a collaborative village. Donning our “Gala Team” tags, we joined the ranks to help assist our guests enjoy a splendid evening of food, drink, and entertainment. Every year, the Gala celebrates a special honoree for their commitment to the arts, and to Philadelphia Theatre Company. For this year’s event, we honored Marilyn and Bob Birnhak- cherished philanthropists, art enthusiasts, and producers – who have generously supported PTC with particular attention to our home, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. For my own part in the Gala, I was sent on special assignment to procure a gift for Marilyn Birnhak. She had mentioned in passing that the best play she ever saw in production was Big Maggie, an Irish play by John B. Keane, which she enjoyed at the Abbey Theatre in the 1980s. I was on mission to find a piece of Big Maggie to present to Marilyn, and I struck gold in the form of a Canadian bookseller. The bookseller sold us a signed, first edition of the play, which is an extremely rare manuscript on the market. The response to the gift at Gala was so memorable! It elicited much surprise and joy from the other guests – and from Marilyn as well. All in a day’s work for a dramaturg!
In addition to honoring the Birnhaks, dinner and cocktails were bookended by both live and silent auctions, which were a tremendous success. The entertainment portion of the evening spotlighted the TONY award-winning star of Broadway, television, and film, Brian Stokes Mitchell, who serenaded us with a host of well-loved songs. My personal favorite was his astonishing rendition of the Brazilian classic, “Waters of March.”
Best of all, the proceeds from the Gala went towards supporting PTC’s education and community outreach initiatives, which is great news for the continued life and fervor of Philadelphia Theatre Company.