Geva’s annual Summer Curtain Call is more than just a fundraiser—it’s a celebration of the Rochester community, and a vibrant party to support arts education initiatives for local students. This year’s event will take place on Friday, May 19th, 2017, thanks to our Honorary Co-Chairs, Arunas and Pam Chesonis.
Staging A Gala:
An immense amount of time and labor goes into Geva’s Summer Curtain Call, to ensure an enjoyable experience for all the participants. Geva’s Manager of Donor Engagement and Special Events, Scott Falkowski, helms Summer Curtain Call each year. He and his team often spend the entire year proceeding the event coordinating with vendors, soliciting donated goods and services, contacting local celebrities to participate in the event, and arranging all the details necessary to ensure a smooth and successful evening.
On the day of the event, the entire Geva staff is on call to help make Summer Curtain Call a success. The work begins at 6am when Woodbury Boulevard shuts down, so that our tent company, Nolans’s, can come set up our event tent at 6:30am. Part of Geva’s staff sets up tables, decorations, etc. in the tent before Fioravanti Florist and Madeline’s Catering arrive at 3pm. Meanwhile, Geva remains abuzz inside the theatre as well: Our technicians arrive in the late morning to begin working on the Wilson Stage presentation. The performers involved in the evening presentation (more on that later…) rehearse one last time, all while another staff contingent sets up Geva’s lobby and café with all the auction items for silent bidding. After a quick dinner break, the staff changes out of their sweats and jeans, and into suits and dresses that have been hanging in their cubicles all day during setup. It’s time to party, but there’s still work to do: Once the event begins at 6pm, staff members take on a new set of tasks to ensure Summer Curtain Call runs smoothly, and that our guests have the best experience possible: You can see our staff greeting guests, serving wine, assisting with bidding, supporting the presentation in the Wilson, and helping in all sorts of ways along with our dedicated fleet of volunteers. And, at the end of the night, everyone lends a hand to clean up and restore Geva to its usual working conditions, ready to host audiences for Saturday performances the next day.
A Lovely Night…
Beginning at 6pm, guests can enjoy live music in a festival tent erected directly in front of Geva on Woodbury Blvd. Dinner will be provided by Madeline’s Catering both in the tent, and in the Geva Café & Lobby. Guests can also enjoy tastings of beer by ROC Brewing Co., hand-pressed wines by Constellation Brands, liquor by Black Button Distilling and Iron Smoke Distillery, and chocolate by Hedonist Artisan Chocolates from 6 pm to 8pm. Simultaneously, there will be a silent auction using a mobile bidding system, where guests can bid on their smart phone or device. This year, items being auctioned include an Adirondack fly fishing excursion, memberships for the Strong Museum, private yoga classes, golf outings, an Ethan Allen gift certificate, and even opportunities to be an honorary crew member for A Christmas Carol and The Other Josh Cohen! There will be plenty of “bid buddies” on hand to assist those who do not have smart phones, or who prefer to place bids on an iPad provided by the theatre. And, for the first time this year, we will have a video kiosk supplied by Empire Digital Signs, where guests can create video testimonials to capture all the fun they’re having at Summer Curtain Call and talk about what Geva means to them.
At 8pm we will move to the Wilson Theatre to enjoy a presentation, lead by Mistress of Ceremonies, Democrat & Chronicle’s “Suburban Outlaw”, Pam Sherman. Pam has been one of our most-beloved Summer Curtain Call personalities for many years. Guests might remember Pam’s banters with Tim Ryan (head of Geva Comedy Improv) in previous years, and her fun way of guilting bidders into upping the ante (“Get it for your wife; she wants the prize…Don’t you want a vacation, honey?”). We’re thrilled Pam will be keeping the evening lively again this year!
This year’s presentation will include a raffle drawing, a performance by our Summer Academy Alumni (this year, they will be singing “Stars, I Trust” from the musical Fly By Night), a live auction, a paddle call, and special guest speakers.
The highlight of Summer Curtain Call every year comes next in the presentation: a specially-written show by Artistic Director, Mark Cuddy, featuring unforgettable performances by a cavalcade of local celebrities.
Rochester VIPs who have joined us in past years include artists and entertainers (RPO members, Rochester Ballet dancers, radio personality Brother Weaze, drag queen Kasha Davis), local politicians (Mayor Lovely Warren, former Supervisor of the Town of Brighton Sandra Frankel, former Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks), and other personalities (Spikes, the Rochester Red Wings mascot).
In order to accommodate our busy VIP performers’ unique talents—and their busy schedules—Mark has to approach his writing and directing process a little differently than most traditional plays: First, Mark arranges 15-minute meetings with each of the VIPs, to talk about the specific content of the play and see if they have any special talents (musical abilities, etc.) they want to feature in the show. He then sequesters himself away in his office to pound out a script. Then, when it comes time to stage the play, a team of Geva staff members stand in for the VIPs for what’s called the “Buddy Rehearsal.” Each Geva staff “buddy” is responsible for learning the staging for 4-6 performers at this rehearsal, a day or two before Summer Curtain Call. On the day of the event, the Buddies rehearse with their VIP counterpoints, helping the VIPs through their simple staging, and preparing index cards with all their lines and notes on entrances and exits. Then, when showtime comes around, the Buddies stay backstage to make sure their assigned VIPs (some of whom may have little to no stage experience) are in the right place at the right time, and get onstage in time for their cues.
Skip Greer, our Director of Education and Artist in Residence, performs in the play every year, and is a treasure trove of memories from hilarious moments in past Summer Curtain Call shows. For example, there was the year where he played the choreographer in a spoof on A Chorus Line, with five mayoral candidates lined up to “audition.” Then there was the time Dave Fiedler, a mild-mannered gentleman and the former CEO of ESL Federal Credit Union, got up and performed a hilarious rap in a muscle shirt and “bling.” And, when Mark Cuddy dressed up as Spiderman the year the movie was being filmed in Rochester.
Some of the best moments onstage, though, are the ones that aren’t scripted: In many past Summer Curtain Call shows, our VIP performers have been known to improvise off of their written parts, and often in entertaining ways. Skip recalled one year, for example, where former Mayor Johnson was in a scene that questioned his affiliation with the Communist Party. Somehow, Mayor Johnson decided that if he could prove to his scene partner, Skip, that if he wasn’t wearing red underwear, he couldn’t possibly be a Communist. And so, the mayor began unbuttoning his pants onstage…(He didn’t actually remove any of his clothing, but the moment was a hilarious shock to both the audience and Mayor Johnson’s fellow performers.)
This year, Mark’s play will be a spoof of Million Dollar Quartet, and we’re expecting to see some of the VIP cast members’ musical talents featured. Mark always makes sure to include humor from local and national news, skewering and roasting our local celebrity guests. In a particularly memorable moment from the 2015 play, Sandra Frankel shows up at Maggie Brooks’ home and offers to become her maid. Brooks protested the gesture, telling Frankel, “You know, you don’t have to do that, Sandy.” Her political opponent, who was known to accuse Brooks’ administration of “cronyism and corruption,” replied to a befuddled Brooks, “That’s okay. I don’t mind cleaning up after you, Maggie.” This is the kind of skewering comedy we’ve come to expect from Mark’s plays each year, and the jokes always fill the room with roars of laughter.
Following this performance by our very own Rochester VIPS, coffee and desserts will be served in the tent—including ice cream from Moonlight Creamery, cupcakes from Dolce Cupcakery, and assorted chocolates and sweets by The Melting Pot—to cap off a delightful May evening with Geva.
…For An Important Cause: Engaging and Educating Rochester through the Arts
While the party and performance are always enjoyed by Geva staff members and guests alike, for Skip, the annual Summer Curtain Call takes on a special meaning. Each year, the event reaffirms why his job as Director of Education is both an important role in serving the Rochester community, and a meaningful occupation for him, personally. When talking about performing in Mark’s play every year, Skip told me, “Each year, I am reminded of the joy of being up on stage with folks who are sometimes performing for the first time,” much like the young people learning about theatremaking from his department’s programming. “And that reminds me of the joy in everything we do here at Geva.” Skip takes a great amount of pride in the services Geva provides for Rochester’s youth. Geva’s theatre education programs like Summer Academy give young people a sense of community and common purpose, and, in Skip’s words, “Nothing replaces that sense of belonging. And at a time when a lot of kids are feeling lost right now, we give them a place to belong at Geva.”
In addition to the lively entertainment, one of the best parts of attending Summer Curtain Call is the chance to see how our donors’ support directly impacts educational programming here at Geva. For example:
- $5,000 underwrites our Teacher Workshops for the year, giving teachers the opportunity to integrate theatre into their classrooms. $5,000 also helps underwrite our Passport Program, which provides free student matinees and in-school artist workshops for Rochester City School District students.
- $2500 can help provide FREE pre-show talks with Geva artists attended by more than 22,000 people each season.
- $1500 can bring artists right into schools for a program like the Stage Door Project. $1500 is also the cost of providing an open captioned performance for people with hearing loss.
- $500 can pay for the cast of a Hornets’ Nest reading and discussion. This FREE exciting reading and discussion series combines a professional play reading and a post-show discussion led by community experts.
- $250 covers the cost of our lively post-performance discussions. Our staff facilitates conversation with patrons. They’re free. A great way to have a community conversation.
- $100 can provide curriculum guides for one classroom of students. These guides are incredible—full of information about the play; ways to tie the play into classroom studies; and more.
Last year, we raised over $214,000 at Summer Curtain Call, and Scott and his team would love to beat that goal this year.
We hope you’ll join us for an unforgettable evening at Summer Curtain Call!
Details: Tickets are $175 a piece ($90 is tax deductible). They can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office at 585-232-GEVA (4382). There are also table sponsorships available, which can be purchased by calling the Development Department at 585-420-2004.