Signature Theatre, which makes an extended commitment to producing a playwright’s body of work, is holding the 2022 Gala in the sweeping lobby of its own Frank Gehry-designed home, The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street). On Monday, June 13, on the heels of an exciting re-opening season—with acclaimed productions of plays by Anna Deavere Smith, Dominique Morisseau, and Samuel D. Hunter, reminding audiences of theater’s transformative power—the gala brings together artists and community members vitally embedded in the organization’s history. They join with attendees to celebrate within the space that serves as an artistic home for its many Resident Playwrights.
The event begins at 6:30pm with a cocktail reception followed by dinner and performances. Starr Busby—from the cast of Dave Malloy’s “beautiful, absorbing, disturbing” (The New York Times) a cappella musical Octet, in which Busby’s performance was noted for “irresistible pathos” (New York Magazine)—hosts the event. Other special guests include Resident Playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book and screenplay of In the Heights and premiered Daphne’s Dive at Signature in 2016, and whose latest work, My Broken Language (an adaptation of her memoir of the same name), kicks off Signature’s 2022–2023 Season; and Nicco Annan and Sheldon Best, both original cast members of Resident Playwright Katori Hall’s 2020 world premiere work at Signature, The Hot Wing King, performing an excerpt of the play. (Annan is currently featured on Hall’s “P-Valley” on STARZ). Steve H. Broadnax III, director of the acclaimed production of Hall’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama winning play, directs the 2022 gala.
At the gala, the theatre will present two awards: Katori Hall (Hurt Village, Our Lady of Kibeho, The Hot Wing King) will be honored with the Signature Outstanding Artist Award, and Signature Trustee Donna Walker-Kuhne (Founder & CEO of Walker International Communications Group, Inc.) will receive the Margot Adams Signature Award. Gala co-chairs for this year are Bloomberg Philanthropies, Douglas and Kathy Chittenden, Edward Skyler, Citi, and Nina B. Matis and Alan Gosule.
For more information and to RSVP please visit www.signaturetheatre.org/gala.
To ensure the safety of Signature’s community, all visitors must be fully vaccinated to enter The Pershing Square Signature Center. Boosters are strongly recommended but not required. Additionally, masks must always be worn, except for when actively eating or drinking. Due to the nature of this event, Signature is not accepting any COVID-19 vaccine exemptions. Gala details are subject to change as guidance and health regulations evolve.
About Katori Hall
Katori Hall is a Pulitzer Prize and Olivier Award-winning playwright and television creator/producer hailing from Memphis, Tennessee. A two-time Tony Award nominee, she won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play, The Hot Wing King, which she will soon direct for the first time at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in early 2023.
Hall is currently the showrunner and Executive Producer of the Starz drama series, “P-Valley,” which she adapted from her stage play Pussy Valley. The critically acclaimed and record-breaking series returned for its second season on June 3, 2022. P-Valley was named to countless ‘Best of 2020’ lists for its first season and, among many honors, has received Gotham, Independent Spirit, GLAAD Media, and NAACP Image Award nominations.
Hall recently signed an overall deal with Lionsgate Television to continue to develop and produce groundbreaking content across their linear and streaming platforms. Notably, her deal includes a fund to commission Black playwrights, all of whom will receive mentorship from her.
She most recently wrote and produced the hit Broadway musical, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, based on the life of the iconic performer. She received two Tony Award nominations for her work as both playwright for ‘Best Book of a Musical’ and as producer in the ‘Best Musical’ category; for Tina’s acclaimed West End production, she also received an Olivier nomination for ‘Best New Musical.’
Her play The Mountaintop, which vividly reimagines the final night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, premiered at Theatre503 in London in 2009, then transferred to the West End, where Hall won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2010. It later opened on Broadway in October 2011 to critical acclaim in a production starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. The Mountaintop will soon premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from June 6 – July 9, 2023.
Hall’s other works include the award-winning Hurt Village, which is currently in development as a feature film; plus Hoodoo Love, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, WHADDABLOODCLOT!!!, Our Lady of Kibeho, Purple is the Colour of Mourning and The Blood Quilt.
She is also the proud recipient of the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Lark Play Development Center Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, two Lecompte du Nouy Prizes from Lincoln Center, Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, NYFA Fellowship, the Columbia University John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement, National Black Theatre’s August Wilson Playwriting Award and the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award.
Hall is an alumnus of the Sundance Episodic Lab’s inaugural class, as well as the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. She also participated in Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation Directing Program and directed the award-winning short, “Arkabutla.”
About Donna Walker-Kuhne
Donna Walker-Kuhne is an award-winning thought leader, lawyer, scholar, educator, writer and strategist for community engagement, audience development, and social justice. Acknowledged as the nation’s foremost expert on Audience Development by the Arts & Business Council, the accomplished arts administrator and adult educator has devoted her professional career to increasing the accessibility and connection to the arts for our nation’s rapidly growing multicultural population. She has raised over $23 million in earned income promoting the arts to diverse communities, and says, “I firmly believe that the arts are the only pure vehicle we have in today’s society that cross cultural and ethnic barriers and allow people to transcend their differences.”
She is founder and President of Walker International Communications Group, Inc., a 30-year-old boutique marketing, press, and audience development consulting agency. Her team has over 50 years of experience specializing in multicultural marketing, group sales, multicultural press and promotional events. She has developed numerous marketers who have not only contributed to the growth and success of the company but who have also transitioned to share their skills at the nation’s leading arts organizations including Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jazz @ Lincoln Center, The Apollo Theater, and more.
Walker-Kuhne has earned a reputation among performing arts patrons for introducing them to high-quality productions and unique experiences. This comes at a time when arts organizations are struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing cultural landscape and shifting demographics – evidenced by the growth of Latinx, African-American, and Asian American populations and the rising consumerism of Generation Y and Z. As an African-American female entrepreneur, Walker-Kuhne has demonstrated sustainability and consistent delivery of excellence for her clients.
She was formerly Vice President, Marketing and Communications at The Public Theater, where she supervised a team of 40 staff and managed a budget of $12 million. Walker-Kuhne developed a new department, one of the first in the nonprofit arts industry focusing exclusively on community engagement. She was appointed Vice President of Community Engagement at NJPAC in 2016. In 2018, she became a consultant to NJPAC and since that time has been consulting as Senior Advisor, Community Engagement, and charged with developing and deepening relationships with targeted communities through partnerships and special events. Most recently, following the murder of George Floyd, she is leading a new initiative, Standing in Solidarity, a social justice program focused on promoting racial equality through conversations and films that examine some of today’s most pressing issues. These programs have become a model for the performing arts industry.
About Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre is an artistic home for storytellers. By producing several plays from each Resident Writer, Signature offers a deep dive into their bodies of work.
Signature serves its mission by hosting distinctive resident playwrights and cultural communities at its permanent home at The Pershing Square Signature Center, a three-theatre facility on West 42nd Street designed by Frank Gehry Architects. At the Center, which opened in January 2012, Signature continues its original Playwright-in-Residence model with Spotlight Residency (formerly Residency 1), an intensive exploration of a single writer’s body of work. The Premiere Residency (formerly Residency 5), the only program of its kind, supports playwrights as they build a body of work by guaranteeing each writer three productions over a five-year period. The Legacy Program, launched during Signature’s 10th Anniversary, invites writers from both residencies to premiere or re-produce earlier plays. In 2020, Signature launched SigSpace, to bring free artistic programming to the Center’s public spaces and more fully activate Signature’s lobby as a free public workspace and social hub for New York artists.
The Pershing Square Signature Center is a major contribution to New York City’s cultural landscape. The Center supports and encourages collaboration among artists, cultural organizations and local communities by providing free, public access throughout the space. In addition to its three intimate theatres, the Center features a studio theatre, a rehearsal studio and a public café, bar and bookstore.
Founded in 1991 by James Houghton, Signature Theatre is now led by Artistic Director Paige Evans. Signature’s Resident Playwrights include: Edward Albee, Annie Baker, Lee Blessing, Martha Clarke, Will Eno, Horton Foote, María Irene Fornés, Athol Fugard, John Guare, Stephen Adly Guirgis, A.R. Gurney, Katori Hall, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Samuel D. Hunter, David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Adrienne Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Romulus Linney, Kenneth Lonergan, Dave Malloy, Charles Mee, Arthur Miller, Dominique Morisseau, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Ruhl, Sam Shepard, Anna Deavere Smith, Regina Taylor, Paula Vogel, Naomi Wallace, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, Lauren Yee, The Mad Ones, and members of the historic Negro Ensemble Company: Charles Fuller, Leslie Lee, and Samm-Art Williams.
Signature and its artists have been recognized with Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur “Genius” grants, and Lucille Lortel, Obie, Drama Desk, AUDELCO, and Artios Awards as well as the 50/50 Award for Gender Parity in Theatre, among many other distinctions. In 2014, Signature became the first New York City theatre to receive the Regional Theatre Tony Award for its body of work and accomplishments as an institution. For more information, please visit signaturetheatre.org.
The groundbreaking Signature Access (formerly the Signature Ticket Initiative), which in 2019 celebrated its one millionth ticket sold, guarantees affordable tickets to every Signature production through 2032. Serving as a model for theatres and performing arts organizations across the country, the Initiative was founded in 2005 and is made possible, in part, by Lead Partner The Pershing Square Foundation.