(BOSTON) – Over 500 guests honored Wimberly Award recipients Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Tony and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter, while raising over $1,000,000 (with additional gifts still coming in) to support the Huntington and its programs, including its renowned education and community initiatives at the Spotlight Spectacular on Monday, April 24. “Thousands of young people come to the Huntington to see productions each year through our student matinee program either at no charge or for a nominal fee,” said Managing Director Michael Maso. “This program is the centerpiece of all our education programs, the place where opportunity begins and lives are changed.”

The celebration at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts began at 6pm with a cocktail reception. At 7:30pm, guests were seated for the program, and Aimee Doherty kicked off the evening with her performance of “Big Spender” from Sweet Charity. A spirited live auction led by Managing Director Michael Maso featured exciting trips and unique experiences, such as a walk on role in the Huntington’s 2017-2018 season opener Merrily We Roll Along, a fantastic one-week stay in Paris, a dynamite culinary experience with Barbara Lynch, and tickets to three of Broadway’s hottest shows. Guests donated more than $250,000 to sponsor classes at 2017-2018 student matinees, and all proceeds raised at the Spotlight Spectacular support the Huntington and its programs, including its award-winning education and community initiatives that reach more than 29,000 students and 7,000 community members annually. Watch a video about the Huntington’s partnership with Codman Academy Charter Public School, and learn more about the Huntington’s impact on Codman students over the past 16 years.   

The evening continued with the presentation of the Gerard and Sherryl Cohen Awards for Excellence, which recognizes a Huntington production and administrative staff member each year. This year’s recipients were Associate Technical Director Adam Godbout and Manager of Education Operations Meg O’Brien. During the award presentation, Sherryl Cohen quoted nominations from Huntington staff members about Adam saying, “Adam has been our chief problem solver on the production center project, taking the concerns of the whole group and helping to develop solutions.” Gerard Cohen continued saying, “The Huntington’s Education programs transform and enrich the lives of innumerable students who come through our doors. From Poetry Out Loud to the August Wilson Monologue Competition, Meg is a constant presence and an organizational powerhouse.” 

Artistic Director Peter DuBois then presented Billy Porter with the Wimberly Award saying, “Those of you who saw The Colored Museum, and most recently, his stunning direction of Topdog/Underdog, know the heightened sense of theatricality, the humor, and the political savvy that Billy brings to our stage.” 

“Theatre saved my life,” said Billy Porter as he accepted the Wimberly Award with an inspiring speech. “I was a little, poor, black, gay kid with nothing. After school programs – angels who stepped in and encouraged my God-given talents – programs like [the Huntington’s] Student Matinee Series, saved my life. I would not be standing here in front of you with all these accolades and titles if that didn’t exist.” He followed his speech with a moving rendition of “Edelweiss” from his new album Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers.

Next, Michael Maso presented Mayor Martin J. Walsh with the Wimberly Award saying, “Marty Walsh has never stood on the sidelines. As Mayor he has made it clear that this son of Dorchester will stand up for immigrants and the neediest among us, tackling racism and homophobia, building new schools and affordable housing, and yes – as part of his deep commitment to the arts in Boston, he even stood up for a theatre company. Without his unwavering support of the Huntington, we would likely have lost our original home; with it we will soon create an even more exciting center for Boston theatre on Huntington Avenue.”  

“The Huntington for over 35 years has been a staple in our city,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh as he accepted the Wimberly Award. “To make us laugh, make us think, entertain us, and help us have important conversations. The Huntington consistently finds new ways to explore the human experience and help more people get access to the arts.”

Entertainment continued after dinner as Telly Leung treated guests to “Being Alive” from Company. Ken Robinson sang “A Song for You” as a tribute to Billy Porter and Aimee Doherty returned to the stage to sing “I Believe in You” from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as a tribute to Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

The Spotlight Spectacular was co-chaired by Betsy and David Epstein and Sharon and Brad Malt. Event design was by Rafanelli Events, lighting and sound design was by High Output, rentals were provided by Be Our Guest, event printing was donated by Noble Ford Productions, and the event was catered by MAX Ultimate Food.

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