Geffen Playhouse’s Exclusive Star-Studded Event Raised More Than $1
Million to Benefit New Play Development and Education Programs
The Evening Featured Appearances by Barbra Streisand, Rob Reiner,
Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle and More
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Legendary Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning artists Quincy
Jones and Mel Brooks were honored Sunday, March 19, at the Geffen
Playhouse’s 15th annual fundraiser, Backstage at the Geffen,
which honors the accomplishments of leaders in the artistic community
and supports the theater’s mission to produce original, quality works
and engage the community in the live arts.
Barbra Streisand presented the Distinction in Service Award to Quincy
Jones. Rob Reiner presented the Distinction in Theater Award to Mel
Brooks. Actress and director Aisha Tyler served as the evening’s host.
The exclusive event raised more than $1 million for the theater’s
artistic endeavors, including new play development, playwright
commissions, second productions and adventurous artistic programming, as
well as its award-winning education and community engagement programs,
which bring the excitement of live theater to more than 15,000
disadvantaged youth, seniors and veterans annually.
This year’s star-studded event featured surprise storytelling
appearances by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, comedians Sarah
Silverman and Dave Chappelle, Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn,
and Aisha Tyler, with musical performances by celebrated Phantom of
the Opera star Davis Gaines, spoken word performance artist Daniel
Beaty, and Broadway star Merle Dandridge. Movement artist Jon Boogz and
violinist Lee England, Jr. performed new versions of Jones’ hit songs
“Human Nature” and “Thriller” accompanied by Sarah Reich and Melinda
Sullivan of female tap dance band Syncopated Ladies.
“A big part of the ‘Backstage’ tradition is that the show and performers
are kept secret until the event begins,” said Gil Cates, Jr., Geffen
Playhouse Executive Director. “The atmosphere was filled with such
anticipation and excitement, and the inspired, hilarious performances
proved to be wonderful tributes to Mel and Quincy.”
David Geffen, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, Cindy and Alan Horn,
Mellody Hobson and George Lucas, Lyn and Norman Lear, Stephanie Swedlove
and Jeff Skoll, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick served as the event’s
Geffen Playhouse executive director Gil Cates, Jr., and Geffen Playhouse
board member Kevin Bright produced the event. Geffen Playhouse artistic
director Randall Arney directed.
Jon Boogz, Lee England, Jr., and the Syncopated Ladies opened the show
with a fresh take on Jones’ classics using strings, percussion,
original movement and modern tap dance and received the first of the
evening’s many standing ovations.
Aisha Tyler, as the show’s host, paid tribute to the EGOT-winning
honorees and their many accomplishments, and shared her own
behind-the-scenes story of working on an overscheduled film by a
hysterically unrealistic director, prompting the lead actor to
announce his exit with a rap song.
Rhea Seehorn regaled the audience with a story about her first
television series and her confusion over quick costume changes,
drawing on her theater experience to come up with creative but
unnecessary ways to make it from one scene to the next in the correct
Sarah Silverman had the audience roaring with a series of short
stories, from a childhood acting class in which the instructor taught
that “acting is reacting” and mocking a pilot script of Friends,
to a misunderstood connection with a Hollywood writer and lunch with
one of the world’s biggest rappers and record producers.
Paul Feig told of directing an early episode of 30 Rock while
in “movie jail” after one of his films underperformed and his failure
to impress the show’s big stars.
Dave Chappelle aired personal secrets about getting older and his
gratitude for honoree Mel Brooks, who gave him his first movie role in Robin
Hood: Men in Tights.
Barbra Streisand’s appearance, a surprise to honoree Quincy Jones,
drew a standing ovation. She spoke lovingly of her longtime friend
Jones, a “trustworthy, loyal and reliable” confidant whom she met at
the Grammy Awards the year they won their first awards.
Quincy Jones, upon accepting his Distinction in Service Award,
reiterated the importance of art in young people’s lives and expressed
a deep sorrow at the lack of it in today’s education system, while
recalling a moving story of the day he discovered music and its
influence on his life.
Rob Reiner jokingly read his presenter speech from the show’s program
before telling a story of the day he and his sister, as young
children, met Mel Brooks, whom he then called “the man” and today
credits as “the single funniest man on the planet.”
Mel Brooks, the event’s Distinction in Theater Award honoree,
commented on the evening’s off-color humor and told a touching tale of
meeting the Geffen Playhouse’s founder Gil Cates, then a young
assistant stage manager, who woke a furious Brooks from a backstage
Host Committee guests enjoyed a casual grazing dinner prior to the
show catered by award winning chef Suzanne Goin and Lucques catering.
Following the show, guests were treated to a dessert reception by
DeLuscious Cookies & Milk, Richard Russell and Sugarfina.
City National Bank continued as Title Sponsor for the eighth consecutive
year, with Audi of America returning as a Presenting Sponsor for the 12th year.
Additional Presenting Sponsors were K Period Media and Find Your Grind
Additional photos from Backstage at the Geffen are available
online at http://geffenplayhouse.org/media_center_gallery_photos.php?gallery_id=147
ABOUT GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE
Geffen Playhouse has been a hub of the Los Angeles theater scene since
opening its doors in 1995. Noted for its intimacy and celebrated for its
world-renowned mix of classic and contemporary plays, provocative new
works and second productions, the not-for-profit organization continues
to present a body of work that has garnered national recognition. Named
in honor of entertainment mogul and philanthropist David Geffen, who
made the initial donation to the theater, the company was founded by
Gilbert Cates, and is currently helmed by Artistic Director Randall
Arney, Executive Director Gil Cates, Jr., and Co-Chairs of the Board
Martha Henderson and Pamela Robinson. Proudly associated with UCLA, the
Geffen welcomes an audience of more than 130,000 each year, and
maintains extensive education and community engagement programs,
designed to involve underserved young people and the community at large
in the arts. www.geffenplayhouse.org.
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