Paper Mill Playhouse’s annual gala raises nearly $1.2 million

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originally published: 05/26/2022

(MILLBURN, NJ) — paper mill playhousealong with Gala Chairs Sofia and Peter Cocoziello, announced that the theatre’s annual gala, held at the Hilton Short Hills on Friday, May 20, was sold out and raised nearly $1.2 million through at the most successful live auction in Paper Mill’s 84-year history.

Gala chair Sofia Cocoziello shared her reasons for supporting Paper Mill Playhouse: “It’s important to make deposits in people’s emotional banks. That’s what drives a strong relationship and that’s exactly what Paper Mill does for us through magical performances and acting school. When a play is finished, that’s what we all feel. It’s a combination of magic, happiness, hope and human connection that always creates a deposit in our emotional banks and leaves us in a better place.

“We are so grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our community of subscribers, donors, funders and the Board of Directors throughout this crazy time,” said Mark S. Hoebee, “We are thrilled with new beginnings, and we are VERY happy to be back on stage at the theater, where we have just completed a fantastic series of The Vagabond and are currently in rehearsals for sister act. Both were shows scheduled just before Covid changed everything, so to say we’re thrilled to finally share them is an understatement.

paper mill playhouse

“We are thrilled to be back together for this night of celebration here at the Hilton. After three years away, it’s wonderful to reunite our Paper Mill Playhouse community. Knowing that we have so many loyal supporters is heartwarming. And this enthusiasm and generosity at this year’s gala will provide invaluable resources to our groundbreaking productions and educational programs,” said General Manager Mike Stotts.

Audrey Bartner, a board member of Paper Mill Playhouse since 2004, received the Antoinette Scudder Patron of the Arts award. In addition to being an accomplished entrepreneur, Audrey is a talented visual artist whose works are exhibited in countless galleries in New Jersey and New York as well as in private collections. Audrey is a true patron of the arts. Prior to joining the board, she served on the Paper Mill gala committees and was active with the Leading Ladies. A resident of Verona, Audrey is active in the community. She is a trustee of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Women’s Association of New Jersey Performing Arts Center; she chaired her first gala and co-chaired subsequent galas. Additionally, she is a member of the Lion of Judah, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the West Essex Art Association, and the NJSO’s Amadeus Circle.

paper mill playhouse

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Ali Strocker, recipient of the Frank Carrington Excellence Award, has a long history in stationery. Ali participated in the Summer Musical Theater Conservatory of Paper Mill Playhouse and New Voices gigs in high school before making her stage debut in 2011 as Olive in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Ali went on to win the 2019 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Teen Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s. Oklahoma!

Stroker made history as the first wheelchair-bound actor to appear on Broadway in Deaf West Theater’s acclaimed 2015 revival. The awakening of spring. Ali’s mission to improve the lives of others, disabled or not, through the arts is summed up in his motto: “Turn your limitations into opportunities”. She speaks all over the world to spread her message of possibility with engagements at institutions including ReelAbilities Film Festival, Brooklyn College, Vassar College, NYU Leadership Academy, and Easterseals Colorado, among others.

paper mill playhouse

Tonight’s surprise winner was a longtime employee Patrick Parker, receiving the Byrne/Kean Arts Advocate Award. Patrick Parker has worked at Paper Mill for 27 years, currently as Associate Art Director. Patrick began his tenure as Assistant Artistic Director under Robert Johanson and served as Assistant Director for many of Paper Mill’s breakout shows, including Follies and Gypsy with Betty Buckley and Deborah Gibson. As Paper Mill’s resident historian, Patrick served as custodian of the organization’s archives. He is a key member of the executive team intimately involved in season planning, casting, production, donor relations, education programs and much more.

Diamond Gala sponsors included Investors Bank, Advance Realty, Audrey Bartner, Kathleen and Ted Bourke, David Yurman, the Ferolito Family, FirstEnergy Foundation, Gottesman Real Estate Partners, Hilton Short Hills, Jerry Rose Floral & Event Design, Julie Keenan and Jesse Hermann, and the Wilf family foundations. All proceeds from the gala support Paper Mill’s world-class productions, professional training programs, renowned arts education programs and community outreach.

paper mill playhouse

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, recipient of the 2016 Regional Theater Tony Award, is a nationally recognized non-profit theater led by Mark S. Hoebee (Artistic Director Producer) and Mike Stotts (General Manager). Beloved arts institution in NJ since 1938, Paper Mill creates and produces groundbreaking new musicals and reimagined classics. Several productions have moved to Broadway and launched national tours, including Disney’s News, Wretched, Honeymoon in Vegas, A Bronx Taleand Bandstand. The theater is also home to an award-winning center for musical theater education and artist training, with outreach programs reaching tens of thousands of students each year. As one of the nation’s leading musical theaters, Paper Mill fosters a creative environment to advance the art form, educate students, develop future theatergoers, foster inclusion and provide access for all. Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, through funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theaters and the New Jersey Theater Alliance.

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