I had my funny bone tickled at The 52nd Street Project’s Gala, LAUGHING MATTERS, Kids’ Stand-up, Adults Deliver, held at the elegant retro Edison Ballroom on May 2, 2016, thanks to my hosts Denise Burse and her husband Peter Jay Fernandez, who are among the countless professional theater artists who have mentored and nurtured kids of The 52nd Street Project for more than two decades.
The raucous sold-out event hosted by Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan, was The Project’s most successful to date, raising funds for the Project’s academic and artistic mentoring programming, and kicked off with a cocktail hour, followed by a seated dinner, a live auction and a suite of stand-up performances.
The Project makes a difference in the lives of Hell’s Kitchen (Clinton) kids by pairing them with theater professionals who mentor them through the creation of original theater.
In addition to Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan, John Bowman, Jim Gaffigan and Jessica Williams were among the professional comedians who performed hilarious routines written by Project kids Milen Tokarev (age 13), Coleman Williams (age 11), Karen Tineo (age 13), Jayla Alvarez (age 13), and Magalis Fabian Viñas (age 11).
The show was directed by Gus Rogerson, with lighting design by Greg MacPherson, sound design by Scott Lehrer, set and prop design by George Babiak, with stage management by Anne Lowrie.
About The 52nd Street Project
The 52nd Street Project was founded in 1981 by actor/playwright and 1994 MacArthur Fellow Willie Reale in response to a deepening need to improve the quality of life for New York’s inner-city children. Reale, an actor, playwright, and company member of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), used his company privileges to reach out to the children of the neighborhood by creating theatrical endeavors specifically for them. This was done with the cooperation and support of EST and its across-the-street-neighbor, the Police Athletic League’s Duncan Center. The Project is now an independent not-for-profit organization that creates over eighty new plays and serves over 130 children every year.
The 52nd Street Project has been a place where many preeminent theater-makers have volunteered their efforts to mentor kids from Hell’s Kitchen. To name just a few: Denise Burse, Billy Crudup, Peter Dinklage, Edie Falco, Peter Jay Fernandez, Nancy Giles, Marva Hicks, James McDaniel, Frances McDormand, Cynthia Nixon, Oliver Platt, Martha Plimpton and Lili Taylor.
The Project is about making children proud of themselves. The Project is not about teaching children to act, although they will learn to. It is not about teaching them to write plays, although they will learn that as well. What it is about is giving a kid an experience of success. It is about giving a kid an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within that he or she alone possesses, something that cannot be taken away.
In order to make The 52nd Street Project experience available to children in other locations, The Project has published a manual and other supporting materials, which have been distributed as far as Vancouver and South Africa. There are now projects underway across the country in places such as Los Angeles; Chicago; Trenton, NJ; Williamstown, MA; Providence, RI; and London, England. For more information, visit www.52project.org, like The 52nd Street Project on Facebook or follow @52ndStProject on Twitter.
Broadwayworld.com: Photo Flash: Comedians Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan and More in The 52nd Street Project’s LAUGHING MATTERS Benefit
Lewis Black, John Bowman, Jim Gaffigan, Kathleen Madigan, & Jessica Williams Set for The 52nd Street Project’s Annual Gala 2016 – LAUGHING MATTERS, Kids’ Stand-up, Adults Deliver – on May 2
Photos: Edie Falco, Bryce Pinkham, Stephanie McKay, Lena Hall, Nick Blaemire, Jacob Ming-Trent, Matthew Saldívar at The 52nd Street Project’s Gala FANCY THAT
Photos: Willie Reale, Frances McDormand, Lewis Black, Bela Fleck, Renee Goldsberry, Duncan Sheik, Lisa Benavides, Abigail Washburn, Tim Blake Nelson at The 52nd Street Project Benefit
Multimedia: The 52nd Street Project Benefit Photos: Michael Cerveris, James Monroe Inglehart, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Matthew Morrison, Greg Naughton and Kelli O’Hara
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer and a multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.