(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- George Street Playhouse (GSP) – Jocelyn Schwartzman, Lora Tremayne; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation received the Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award during George Street Playhouse’s Annual Gala on June 1, 2022. Dr. Richard Besser accepted the award on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Awards were presented by New Jersey’s 48th Governor, the Honorable Thomas H. Kean.
"We are thrilled to have honored our beloved board trustees Jocelyn and Lora this year," said George Street Playhouse Artistic Director David Saint. "Their noted philanthropy, hard work and dedication has benefitted the George Street Playhouse tremendously. We are also so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their support of the arts community. It’s an honor to recognize the Foundation for its generous support of the Playhouse and the Trustees for their appreciation of the uniquely valuable role that the arts, and especially theater, play in society and the wellbeing of individuals of all ages and backgrounds.”
The black-tie gala held at the Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset, New Jersey, was attended by a number of dignitaries and featured a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner. A special cabaret performance punctuated the evening and featured stars of stage and screen Tony Award Nominees Brad Oscar and Max Von Essen, Paolo Montalban in addition to favorites from the George Street Playhouse stage Jackie Burns, Teal Wicks, Laiona Michelle, and Angel Desai, accompanied by Greg Kenna.
(L to R) Dr. Richard Besser, President & CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, & the Honorable Thomas H. Kean. Photo by Egan Jimenez.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) - Since 1972, RWJF has invested more than $1.2 billion toward improving health in our home state. Many of our grants over the years have supported causes and issues that our founder, General Robert Wood Johnson, supported during his life, including civic life, arts, and culture. Today, RWJF is building upon the Foundation’s legacy in New Jersey, working to secure the promise of a healthier, more equitable state by addressing health disparities resulting from generations of structural racism. The Foundation’s strategic grantmaking addresses three issue areas that are critical to health equity in New Jersey: maternal and infant health; housing and community development; and public health system reform.
(L to R) The Honorable Thomas H. Kean & Jocelyn Schwartzman. Photo by Egan Jimenez.
Jocelyn Schwartzman - Since 1978, Jocelyn Schwartzman has been a dedicated member of the George Street Playhouse Board of Trustees. She served as vice president and helped establish the first Annual Gala Benefit serving as its Chairperson for over two decades. Mrs. Schwartzman was instrumental in the relocation of the Playhouse to the former YMCA, our home for over 30 years, and in the hiring of Artistic Director David Saint.
With a background in fashion and design, including her work with the legendary Diane Vreeland at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute, Mrs. Schwartzman has guided the aesthetic of over 100 special events at GSP and, on the invitation of the city of New Brunswick, mounted an exhibit reflecting 300 years of dress for its tercentennial. She has devoted much of her time to the arts and philanthropy, most notably the UJA-Federation, Highland Park Temple, and American Repertory Ballet and its Dance Power program.
Mrs. Schwartzman and her dear late husband, Herman, were married for 62 years and she is a very proud mother of four and grandmother of five.
(L to R) The Honorable Thomas H. Kean & Lora Tremayne. Photo by Egan Jimenez.
Lora Tremayne - Lora Tremayne joined the George Street Playhouse Board of Trustees 40 years ago, serving as its president for three years when she led the establishment of the Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award. She has been a devoted member of the Gala Committee since its inception and served on the Leadership Search Committee whose work led to the hiring of Artistic Director David Saint.
Mrs. Tremayne’s passion for the arts began in high school where she received a scholarship to study drama in college and it endures through her belief in the power of the arts to enrich our understanding of the world and each other. Mrs. Tremayne is committed to her community and her faith, raising funds for Cerebral Palsy Association and volunteering with her church ministries including the Altar Society and the Fish Hospitality Program.
Married for over 62 years to her beloved late husband, Bill, Mrs. Tremayne takes great pride in their three children and 10 grandchildren.
Max Von Essen. Photo by Egan Jimenez.
This year’s gala event was chaired by George Street Playhouse President of the Board of Trustees, Penelope Lattimer, Ph.D. Dr Lattimer also chaired the Sponsorships for the event in partnership with James N. Heston, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Lora Tremayne and Jocelyn Schwartsman chaired the Commemorative Gala Journal; Janice Stolar chaired Tables and Tickets; Nonny Stalin and Paula Gentempo chaired Decorations.They were joined by committee members Joan Campbell; Janice Haggerty; Sharon Karmazin; Adele Macula, Ed.D; and Tracey O’Reggio Clark.
Teal Wicks. Photo by Egan Jimenez.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint since 1997, and Managing Director Kelly Ryman since 2013, George Street Playhouse produces groundbreaking new works, inspiring productions of the classics, and hit Broadway plays and musicals that speak to the heart and mind, with an unwavering commitment to producing new work. As New Brunswick’s first producing theatre, George Street Playhouse became the cornerstone of the revitalization of the City’s arts and cultural landscape. With its 45-year history of producing nationally renowned theatre, the Playhouse continues to fill a unique theatre and arts education role in the city, state and greater metropolitan region.
Beginning with the 2019-20 Season, George Street Playhouse moved to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick. Featuring two state-of-the-art theatres -- The Arthur Laurents Theater with 253 seats and The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater which seats 465-- and myriad amenities, the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center marks a new era in the esteemed history of George Street Playhouse.
Founded by Eric Krebs, George Street Playhouse, originally located in an abandoned supermarket on the corner of George and Albany Streets, was the first professional theatre in New Brunswick. In 1984, the Playhouse moved to a renovated YMCA on Livingston Avenue, and in 2017 took temporary residence in the former Agricultural Museum at Rutgers University during construction of its new home.
The Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway. In 2018, George Street Playhouse was represented on Broadway with Gettin’ the Band Back Together which premiered on the Playhouse mainstage in 2013. American Son, produced by George Street Playhouse in 2017, opened on Broadway in 2018 starring Kerry Washington and Stephen Pasquale, and will appear on Netflix. Other productions include the Outer Critics’ Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger. In 2015, It Shoulda Been You opened on Broadway and Joe DiPietro’s Clever Little Lies opened off-Broadway. Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. Others include the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill; and the Broadway hit and Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at the Playhouse during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays.
Inspired by the platforms of Arts EDNJ and New Jersey Department of Education's 2020 Visual and Performing Arts Learning standards and research on culturally responsive learning, George Street Playhouse has reimagined and designed new educational programs beginning in the 22-23 Season. Programs will set priority on teacher professional development and student learning experience and align academic work with theatre arts teaching methods. The programs will emphasize social and emotional learning competencies and prioritize the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion.
George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.
TOP PHOTO: (L to R) Greg Kenna, Brad Oscar, Laiona Michelle, Angel Desai, Jackie Burns, David Saint, Teal Wicks, Max Von Essen, and Paolo Montalban. Photo by Egan Jimenez.