Some of Broadway's brightest theatre makers and theatre supporters gathered September 12 at New York City's Cipriani 42nd Street for the annual American Theatre Wing gala, the first in-person event following a two-year pandemic hiatus. This year's Antoinette Gala honored the legacy of Antoinette Perry and women in theatre.
Following a cocktail hour (with Cipriani's signature Bellini), guests were seated for a three-course dinner and a program celebrating women in theatre. American Theatre Wing President and CEO Heather Hitchens gave the welcome address with a little history lesson about the Wing from its beginnings as The Stage Women’s War Relief, its transformation to the American Theatre Wing with actor, director, and activist Antoinette “Tony” Perry at its helm, and its current work providing financial and educational support to theatre creatives.
The evening's concert, directed by Nemuna Ceesay with music direction by Maestra's Georgia Stitt, celebrated women in the industry—who, Hitchens noted, are still underrepresented in terms of gender parity—with tributes showcasing groundbreaking female composers and lyricists of musical theatre.
The Broadway Boys opened the show with a number from Jeanine Tesori's Violet, accompanied by an all-female band: Stitt on piano, Yuka Tadano on bass, Beth Callen on guitar, and Rosa Avila on drums. Other performances included Amber Gray with Liz Swados' "Oh King Daddy;" NaTasha Yvette Williams with "Impossible" from Kirsten Childs' Bella: An American Tall Tale; Charlotte Maltby with "Hold On" from Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon's The Secret Garden; Luna with "Bung Uh Ree Sae" from the upcoming Broadway production of Helen Park's KPOP; Caesar Samayoa with "Remember Me" by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez from the animated film Coco; Bonnie Milligan with "Shy" by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer from Once Upon a Mattress; Gretchen Cryer with "Old Friend" from her show I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road, co-written with Nancy Ford; Aisha de Haas, accompanied by Jeanine Tesori, with "Fighting for Pharaoh/So Little Time" from Micki Grant's Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope; Kate Baldwin with Stitt's "Something That You Do;" and Elizabeth Stanley with "Back to Before" by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty from Ragtime. The program also included two original tunes performed by their writers, both recipients of Wing awards: the 2020 Musical Theatre Songwriting Challenge winner Leilani Patao and the 2020 Jonathan Larson Grant winner Rona Siddiqui.
Marilu Henner joined Wing Chair Emilio Sosa onstage to talk a little more about some of the Wing's programs, including the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, the Jonathan Larson Grants, Springboard to Design, and The Network for Emerging Leaders in the Theatre, all of which provide support for the next generation of theatre artists. The two then led a spirited round of fundraising, with Henner offering a couple of "memory sessions" for donors. (She has superior autobiographical memory!) The event raised over $1.2 million dollars for the Wing, with pledges and donations still coming in.
After an inspirational evening, guests were gifted with two play scripts each, donated by Drama Book Shop and pulled from a list of recommended works by women writers, each nominated by a play committee comprising ten well-established directors, writers, and performers and ten emerging artists invited by the first ten.
The recommended plays include Promenade by María Irene Fornés; Re: Subject: Family Drama by Zoë Erwin-Longstaff; Angry, Raucous & Shamelessly Gorgeous by Pearl Cleage; America v. 2.1: The Sad Demise & Eventual Extinction of The American Negro by Stacey Rose; Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven by Young Jean Lee; Manahatta by Mary Kathryn Nagle; How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel; SuperYou by Lourds Lane; Close to Home by Sharifa Yasmin; Black Girl Ugly by Ashley Brockington; Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill; If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka by Tori Sampson; Charleston Olio by Ifa Bayeza; Sojourners by Mfoniso Udofia; The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel; Jordans by Ife Olujobi; Breathe, Boom by Kia Corthron; and Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee.
Click through the gallery below to see some of the red carpet arrivals for the gala.