NJ Theatre Alliance celebrates 35 years of ‘spreading hope’

Brian Stokes Mitchell performs at the New Jersey Theatre Alliance's Ovation Gala, Oct. 27 at the Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange.

PHOTOS BY JERRY DALIA

Brian Stokes Mitchell performs at the New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s Ovation Gala, Oct. 27 at the Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange.

In the middle of a three-song set at the New Jersey Theatre Alliance‘s Ovation Gala, Oct. 27, veteran Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell took a moment to talk about the organization’s mission, saying it was about “spreading theater, and spreading hope to the world.”

A play, he said, “can change a person’s entire life in one epiphanal moment.”

He added that play attendees can “see their lives differently (and) other people’s lives differently. They see their own possibility differently. It can change their minds, their lives, and that attests to the power of art. That’s why I’m so passionate about the arts, and why I’m so honored to have been invited here, this evening, to share my love of it with ‘the choir’ here: Other people that are doing the same thing.” 

Mitchell was the star attraction at the dinner and auction, which took place at the palatial Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange and celebrated Alliance’s 35th anniversary. Approximately 300 people attended, and more than $270,000 was raised.

Mitchell’s set had a decidedly inspirational slant, with “The Impossible Dream” (from “Man of La Mancha”) and “Wheels of a Dream” (from “Ragtime”) following “Some Enchanted Evening” (from “South Pacific”). All were sung with great emotion, in his deep, rich baritone.

From left, former Gov. Tom Kean, NJ Theatre Alliance trustees Carol Herbert (of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts) and Joseph Benincasa (of The Actors Fund), NJ Theatre Alliance executive director John McEwen and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

From left, former Gov. Tom Kean, benefit chair and NJ Theatre Alliance trustee Carol Herbert, honoree and NJ Theatre Alliance trustee Joseph Benincasa, NJ Theatre Alliance executive director John McEwen and Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Ovation Gala.

Mitchell is also the chairman of the board of The Actors Fund, whose president and CEO, Joseph P. Benincasa, was honored at the event, along with Johnson & Johnson. The Actors Fund is a national organization that helps professionals in the performing arts through a variety of services and programs. Johnson & Johnson was honored for its support of the Alliance and several of its member theaters.

The NJ Theatre Alliance, whose offices are in West Orange, has 33 theater members throughout the state, and supports them in a variety of areas, including collaborative efforts between theaters, promotion of their offerings to the public, and arts education. Alliance programs include The Stages Festival, NJArtsTix and The Cultural Access Network Project.

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