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Geffen Playhouse raised $1 million for the theater’s education, community engagement and artistic initiatives at its signature Backstage at the Geffen annual fundraiser held May 20. Emmy-winning cinematographer John Simmons presented the Distinction in Theater Award to Emmy-winning actor, director and choreographer Debbie Allen, and “All American” executive producer Nkechi Okoro Carroll presented the Distinction in Service Award to WGA, DGA, Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated writer, director and producer Greg Berlanti.
The evening of unscripted, unannounced storytellers and performers was hosted for a third consecutive year by comedian, actor, writer and producer Tone Bell and featured personal behind-the-scenes anecdotes from a lineup of surprise celebrity guests including Jay Leno, Mimi Rogers, Julia Sweeney and magician and The New York Times crossword constructor David Kwong, who also led the audience in solving a bespoke crossword puzzle he created for Backstage at the Geffen. Welcoming the crowd was Geffen Playhouse executive director Gil Cates, Jr., who thanked the audience for their ongoing support of the arts and helping to keep storytelling alive on the Geffen stages for years to come.
The evening opened with a rousing performance by The String Queens, with a specially curated playlist that paid tribute to Allen and Berlanti and their prolific careers. A raucous, irreverent set from the raucous and irreverent Broadway Barbara (aka Barbara Dixon) wowed the crowd. The evening came to a close with an original song by Grammy and Emmy winner Adam Kantor and composer Matt Gould, who also performed the piece. For information, visit geffenplayhouse.org.
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