Imagine an awards ceremony without the lengthy speeches and stuffy ballroom dinners. The Union City-based Park Performing Arts Center, home to a 1,400-seat theater, will soon host such an event.
The third annual “Showtime 2009” will feature awards for local people involved in theater. Beforehand, guests can enjoy live jazz music by the renowned Argentinean saxophonist and Weehawken resident Oscar Feldman, and a two-level cocktail reception with light fare from area restaurants.
“The event is sort of light and breezy, instead of a big heavy dinner with speech after speech,” said executive director John P. Lewis, who has been with the center for over four years. “There’s great food from local restaurants – and I mean a lot of food.”
Some of the restaurants providing food this year are Ruth Chris steakhouse, Outback steakhouse, Charlie Brown’s restaurant, The Pointe, and many others.
“It’s like a happy hour, but instead of eating bad pasta, people can enjoy Kobe beef.” – John P. Lewis
With an all-inclusive full bar from Bacardi and others, Lewis said the event is the opposite of other stuffy, pretentious award shows.
“A lot of award ceremonies turn into four or five hour drudges to some degree,” Lewis said. “We sort of do the opposite. With a really fun cocktail party for an hour and a half, people can come right after work. It’s like a happy hour, but instead of eating bad pasta, people can enjoy Kobe beef.”
In fact, last year, Union City resident and executive director of Sesame Street Carol-Lynn Parente was rewarded at the ceremony and had a special guest to help her accept her award.
“Elmo came last year to the ceremony,” Lewis said. “The adults got a bigger kick out of it than the kids.”
The award goes to…
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to world-renowned Broadway producer Frank Gero who has been working as an actor and producer in the industry for over 50 years. Currently living in Fort Lee, Gero was a member of the theater’s board of directors for many years.
In addition to producing over 15 plays in America and London, Gero was nominated for six Tony awards in 1991 for his work with Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good.
“Frank is a really well-loved in the business,” Lewis said. “He’s worked with Susan Sarandon, Farrah Fawcett…some really big names. It’s great to sit down and talk theater or show business with him. He has a broader background and more experience than most producers around.”
Weehawken resident and actress Chase Leyner will be awarded the Best Performance in a Leading Role for her work teaching children’s theater. She has appeared in numerous independent movies and on popular television shows like Sex and the City, Law and Order, All My Children, One Life to Live, and As The World Turns.
Leyner founded the Hoboken Children’s Theater, which began in August of 2003 with eight children, which has since blossomed into almost 200 participants in the summer of 2008. Many of her children work professionally – some have even participated in independent films at Columbia University and musicals at NJPAC.
“It’s very disciplined,” Leyner said. And of working with hundreds of children, “it’s a lot of hugs.”
Tickets for the third annual Park Performing Arts Center’s “Showtime 2009” gala will be $100 each and can be purchased on the website www.parkpac.org or by calling Lisa Young at (201) 865-6980.
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org