Announcing Spotlight Spectacular

MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018

(BOSTON) – Tony Award nominated artist and Top Girls director Liesl Tommy and Huntington Trustee Neal Balkowitsch will be honored with the Wimberly Award at the 2018 Spotlight Spectacular on Monday, May 7, 2018 at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts. The Huntington’s festive annual event raises money to support the Huntington’s programs, including its award-winning youth, education, and community initiatives that reach more than 33,000 annually. The Spotlight Spectacular co-chairs are Carol G. Deane, Maria and Daniel Gerrity, and Ann and John Hall.

“Neal Balkowitsch has been an incredible advocate and longtime supporter of the Huntington Theatre Company,” says Managing Director Michael Maso. “As a Huntington Trustee, Neal has supported the Huntington through his innovative catering company MAX Ultimate Food. He is a steadfast and unwavering leader and a warm and caring friend to many. It is an honor to recognize Neal’s contributions with this year’s Wimberly Award.”

Neal Balkowitsch moved to Boston in 1989 to manage Pine Brook Country Club in Weston, and under his direction, Pine Brook established itself as a premier private club. He founded MAX Ultimate Food along with his business partner Dan Mathieu in 2001 and has provided countless impeccable and outstanding experiences for his clients and customers, including the Huntington Theatre Company. MAX has been an avid supporter of many major arts organizations and non-profits throughout Boston and Massachusetts.

“My admiration of Liesl Tommy’s work goes back to our days at The Public Theater in New York, and one of the things I am most proud of in my tenure at the Huntington is welcoming her into our artistic family,” says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Liesl has been a part of a transforming artistic energy at the Huntington and her profound direction of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A Raisin in the Sun, and Ruined have been defining moments in the company’s history. I know her work on Top Girls next spring will be nothing short of incredible, and I’m looking forward to celebrating all of her artistic achievements at the Spotlight Spectacular in May!”

Liesl Tommy was born in Cape Town, South Africa under apartheid. When she was 15 years old her family moved to Newton, Massachusetts. Tommy was an early lover of theatre and was active in theatre at Newton North High School. She first stepped into the Huntington Avenue Theatre as a teenager in 1987. “I first encountered the Huntington when I was in high school when we saw August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. It was an experience that changed my life and opened up my eyes to what theatre could be and what theatre could do,” says Tommy of her experience.

The Spotlight Spectacular will be designed by Rafanelli Events. The lights come up at 6pm at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts and will feature a cocktail reception, a live auction offering one-of-a-kind items, a seated dinner provided by MAX Ultimate Food, the presentation of the Wimberly Awards, and entertainment. The Gerard & Sherryl Cohen Award for Excellence will be given to two Huntington staff members who consistently go above and beyond in their contribution to the company. Guests will also have the opportunity to “Sponsor a Class” in support of the Huntington’s student matinee program and other education initiatives.

For more information about the event or to sponsor a table or purchase tickets, contact Kirsten Doyle at 617 273 1503 or

The 2017 Spotlight Spectacular honored Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Tony Award winner Billy Porter. The event raised over $1,000,000 and was attended by over 500 guests.

Neal Balkowitsch has served on the Huntington Theatre Company board since 2009. He moved to Boston in 1989 to manage Pine Brook Country Club in Weston. Under his direction, Pine Brook established itself as a premier private club with its well-appointed care of membership and highly praised food and beverage operation. Mr. Balkowitsch’s attention to detail and impeccable taste became indispensable in all aspects of the special events operations at Pine Brook and further cultivated as co-owner of MAX Ultimate Food. Having been active on several boards, Mr. Balkowitsch now sits on the boards of the Huntington Theatre Company and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a member of the Corporation at Perkins School for the Blind.

Liesl Tommy is an award-winning stage director and will return to the Huntington in 2018 to direct Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls. Her previous directing credits at the Huntington include A Raisin in the SunMa Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Ruined. Her other credits include productions of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed (Broadway and The Public Theater/NYSF) starring Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (Tony Award nomination for Best Director), Macbeth (Shakespeare Theatre Company), Harrison River’s Where Storms Are Born (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Appropriate (Signature Theatre), Tracey Scott Wilson’s The Good Negro, UNIVERSES’s Party People, and A. Zell Williams’s Urban Retreat (The Public Theater/NYSF), Les Misérables (Dallas Theater Center), Hamlet (California Shakespeare Theater), The Piano Lesson (Yale Repertory Theatre), and John Kander/Greg Pierce’s musical Kid Victory. Ms. Tommy is the recipient of an Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Pioneer of the Arts Award, Lillian Hellman Award, Alan Schneider Award, NEA/TCG Directors Grant, New York Theatre Workshop Casting/Directing Fellowship, and the inaugural Susan Stroman Award from the Vineyard Theatre. Ms. Tommy facilitated the inaugural Sundance East Africa Theatre Director’s Lab and is a member of the Board of the Sundance Institute. She has worked at Dallas Theater Center, California Shakespeare Theater, Center Stage, and Sundance East Africa, among others. Ms. Tommy serves as a program associate and artist trustee at Sundance Institute Theatre Program.

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A limited number of tickets are available for media members interested in covering the event. Contact Desiree Barry at or 617 273 1518 for information. 

The Huntington Theatre Company is Boston’s leading professional theatre and one of the region’s premier cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Huntington brings together superb local and national talent and produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions. The Huntington runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington has long been an anchor cultural institution of Huntington Avenue, the Avenue of the Arts, and will remain so on a permanent basis with plans to convert the Huntington Avenue Theatre into a first-rate, modern venue with expanded services to audiences, artists, and the community. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit

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