Ahh, summer. It’s almost really here – can’t you feel the seasons changing? At Geva, the beginning of summer is signaled by the theatre’s annual Summer Curtain Call, a benefit event for our education programs, which serve up to 40,000 people each year including over 16,000 children and youth. Two weeks ago (sorry, I guess it took me awhile to recover), we raised the roof (okay, it was a tent in front of the theatre) and threw a big party. There were drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music, silent auctions, live auctions, great conversations – and at the center of it all, a spoof on our last production of the season, called A Midsummer Night’s Curtain Call. At the end of each season, Artistic Director Mark Cuddy has the daunting task of marrying an array of local celebrities and some of the more memorable events of the past year with the themes of Geva’s final show.
Before the show began, Lance Corporal John Gonzalez, United States Marine Corps and a participant of Geva’s 2010 Stage Door Project highlighted the transformational power of the arts in education. Of his experience at Geva he said, “It really gave me the sense of a place to belong and through that, it gave me the confidence to go and do more with my life. To do something that less than one percent of this country does, and that’s join the best fighting force that the U.S. has to offer.” His address was a reminder to us all that theatre can impact us in ways we never dream it will. “Skip,” he said, “I thank you for everything that you’ve done for me. It’s because of you that I’m in this uniform.”
On the heels of that powerful introduction, the show began. The opening conceit was that a group of power couples were “auditioning” for a new reality show at Geva, called “Follow Your Dreams.” Pictured here, are Lauren and Brian Kolb (Lauren is the Assistant Vice-President and Community Office Sales manager at the main office of Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company, and Brian is the Minority Leader of the New York State Assembly), singing “All That Jazz,” from the musical Chicago. In order to determine which of the three couples was really ready to follow their dreams, the couples were sent into the woods, where they met Shakespeare, played by Geva’s director of education and artist in residence, Skip Greer. Highlighting Geva’s commitment to education, three of the fairies from the actual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed some of the songs from the play.
Shakespeare’s right hand man, Spiderman (you were expecting someone else?) brought wandering celebrities to the stage, where they bantered with Shakespeare about words he had invented, about local politics and current events (for example, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard was constantly called away to deal with traffic issues at the opening of the new Wegmans in town, and Brian Kolb joked about getting away from the theatrics in Albany by doing something normal – performing in a play…). Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, though, was when Spiderman was unmasked – to reveal Artistic Director Mark Cuddy, himself, playing the role! (It was such a well-kept secret that not even Skip Greer had known who was under the mask…) For a fun peek into the process for another of our celebrity stars, as well as a couple of minutes from the end of the show, check out Kasha Davis’ video of the evening.
Through all of the hijinks, the hors d’oeuvres and the mingling, the event raised a record $155,000 in support of Geva’s nationally-recognized education programming, including in-school teaching programs, teacher workshops and other programs designed to cultivate theatre and theatre education in the Rochester community. A great way to end the season – and launch into summer!