Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Donna Walker-Kuhne Receives LPTW's First Rachel Crothers Leadership Award

LaChanze, André DeShields and Donna Walker-Kuhne. 
Photo: Valerie Terranova Photography

By Lauren Yarger
Marketer and Audience Developer Donna Walker-Kuhne received the first Rachel Crothers Leadership Award on June 27, presented by the League of Professional Theatre Women at an inaugural luncheon at Sardi's hosted by André DeShields.

Pop singer and Broadway star LaChanze (currently Off-Broadway in The Secret Life of Bees) performed "Feeling Good," accompanied by Marco Pagula on piano.

An award-winning marketing consultant, Walker-Kuhne is the founder of Walker International Communications Group, a boutique marketing, press and audience development agency. She is recognized as one of the country's foremost experts in audience development and she and her team specialize in multicultural marketing, group sales, multicultural press and promotional events.

The leadership award is named in honor of playwright Rachel Crothers, (Susan and God; The Three of Us) who was a champion of women's rights before women could vote. She worked to help those serving on the front during World War I and II and founded an organization that later went on to become the American Theatre Wing, which partners with the Broadway League, to present the annual Tony Awards, honoring Broadway's best each season.

The  League of Professional Theatre Women will present the newly established Crothers leadership award to a theater woman "who has distinguished herself in exemplary service and sacrifice for a common cause—a cause which leaves our society and the world a little better than the way we found it."

"We are very excited by the opportunity the League has now to award a theater woman who brings her gifts and talents to bear in addressing a national or local cause or issue affecting our fellow citizens and everyday Americans," said Yvette Heyliger, co-vice president of programming at LPTW.

The award was presented by Playwright Rehana Lew Mirza (Barriers). In addition, Marvin Lowe, a soloist with the Harlem Gospel Singers, presented "Siyahamba," a South African welcome song, and longtime LPTW member Zoe Coralink Kaplan and DeShields reminded the crowd that Crothers made famous the quote about a woman's place being in the house -- and the Senate!

Walker-Kuhne expressed her appreciation by acknowledging and thanking her mentors who taught her along the way and opened doors. Among them were famed director George C Wolfe and Arthur Mitchell, founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, who in 1985, while touring around the country, asked the question. "Where are the Black people?”

"That questioned launched my career in audience development and community engagement," Walker-Kuhne said.

Walker-Kuhne said she loves teaching and providing tools and support for the next generation of arts administrators. She challenged those coming up to "shake up society and revitalize the whole world. Create a winning life and through your art, inspire the world, inspire all of us to be our best. Advance like young lions—be ferocious, tenacious, innovative and warm-hearted."

DeSheilds, currently starring on Broadway in Hadestown, entertained the luncheon attendees with political comments, prayers and some of his popular  snippets of advice:

"Don't give up, in or over. Stay on the path until you win," he said.

For more information of the League of Professional Theatre Women, visit theatrewomen.org.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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