Local Leaders Live Out Their Acting Dreams to Raise Money for PTC
Philadelphia Theatre Company is ready to get back in the ring with its third edition of an inventive fundraiser that puts the region’s leaders front and center on stage. In the vein of Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, PTC’s Play Brawl returns on Friday, March 13 with local celebrities and leaders living out their acting dreams alongside professional actors. Instead of standard speeches and silent auctions, the competitors will act their hearts out while audience members vote for the winning performance through tax-free donations on a mobile bidding app. This year’s line-up includes a who’s who from the local business and non-profit community – including Mindy Dougherty Baida (Executive Director of Music Theatre Philly), Jonathan Lovitz (Advocate, Politician, and Former Theatre and Television Star), Sulaiman W. Rahman (President/CEO, DiverseForce, LLC), Garrett Snider (Founder, Childhood Resilience Foundation), Michael G. Turner (Head of School, The Shipley School), and Rob Wonderling (President & CEO, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia). Play Brawl kicks-off at 6:00pm at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (480 S. Broad Street) with a cocktail party, followed by the competition on stage. Tickets and sponsorships for the event start at $150 and are available online at www.philatheatreco.org or by calling 215-985-1400, ext. 117.
“Play Brawl is our single biggest fundraising source to support what we do at Philadelphia Theatre Company,” said PTC Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for us to succeed. We try really hard to make this a special and different fundraiser, and I think it’s much more fun than a traditional gala. It’s a ton of work, but really worth it – kind of like producing theatre. I love that we show off the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, and that we’re highlighting the kind of work we do on stage by sharing it with the community’s participants. It’s a testament to the dedication to the arts organizations in town that we’re able to get such a varied and talented group of actors and business leaders to play with us.”
Play Brawl is PTC’s largest fundraiser and features local celebrities and business leaders facing off on the stage of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. This friendly competition will raise tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 46th Anniversary, 2020-2021 season of plays. The event will be hosted by Price and 2019 Contender and Fox29 Anchor Shaina Humphries. Last year, Humphries performed a scene from My Cousin Vinny.
During the unique event, contenders will team up with local professional actors to recreate iconic scenes from stage and screen. Contenders for this year’s Play Brawl include:
Mindy Dougherty Baiada, Executive Director, Music Theatre Philly, performing a scene from Legally Blonde.
Jonathan Lovitz, Advocate, Politician, and Former Theatre & Television Star, singing Suddenly Seymour, from Little Shop of Horrors.
Sulaiman W. Rahman, President/CEO, DiverseForce, LLC, performing a scene from Hitch.
Garrett Snider, Founder, Childhood Resilience Foundation, performing a scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Michael G. Turner, Head of School, The Shipley School, performing a scene from Groundhog Day.
Rob Wonderling, President & CEO, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, performing a scene from Animal House.
Performing with the Contenders are a team of local professional actors and one local media personality. 6ABC’s Erin O’Hearn will take to the ring to perform with Baiada to bring Legally Blonde to life. Local actress Michaela Shuchman performs in the first ever musical scene of the competition. She duets with Lovitz on Suddenly Seymour and also appears in Groundhog Day with popular Philly actor Sabrina Profitt, and also Ferris Bueller. Also appearing are University of the Arts senior Matthew Donzella and Seth Reich, Artistic Director of The Phoenix Theatre in Chester County and a theatre teacher at the the Center for Performing and Fine Arts in West Chester. Donzella joins the Ferris Bueller and Animal House scenes, while Reich is featured in Legally Blonde and Hitch. Philly actor Rob Tucker brings humor to Ferris Bueller and Legally Blonde. Emerging talent Sol Madariaga, who is making her PTC debut, joins for Hitch.
As an added surprise, Philadelphia favorite Jeff Coon, who has been working at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster for the past year, returns to lead the auction at the event.
As the countdown to Play Brawl begins, each Contender gets an hour with their scene partners. During that hour, they read the scene and get on their feet and space things out with props and a basic set. The only additional rehearsal they get is on the day of the event. This year’s show is directed by Price, with production assistance by PTC Artistic Associate Allison Fifield and Literary Intern and Drexel student Angel Chasco.
“I love the rehearsals – it’s so fun to watch people who excel in other fields come into the rehearsal room and fully jump into this process,” said Price. “It’s clearly outside their comfort zones, but they are coming to play. They know their lines, they enjoy working with the professional actors and they also know they’re efforts are helping PTC raise money for our season. I’m humbled by the extraordinary efforts they’re making.”
Play Brawl kicks-off at 6:00pm with a cocktail and hors d’ oeuvres reception in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre lobby. Audiences then move into the theatre for a live auction featuring international travel and exclusive Broadway access, followed by the lively onstage competition. Throughout the competition, audiences can support their favorite competitors and scenes by donating through a mobile giving platform, with donations as low as $10. The Contestant with the most tax-deductible votes will then be declared the 2020 Play Brawl Champion. Finally, the audience celebrates with an after-party. The Champion receives a trophy that is a pair of red boxing gloves, presented by the former champions.
Food for Play Brawl will be provided by Di Bruno Bros. Di Bruno Bros has provided full-service catering at notable venues throughout the Philadelphia area for years. Play Brawl marks Di Bruno Bros.’ inaugural event with the PTC, showcasing a delicious menu, intended to accentuate a sophisticated setting for the first of many unforgettable events. Di Bruno Bros is also the exclusive concessions provider for the theater, offering a selection of their famous cheeses, charcuterie, and artisan snacks.
As Di Bruno Bros. expands further into full-service dining and events, including the recent opening of their historic event venue BANCA, they have esteemed Chef Ashley James on board to lead the culinary vision. Ashley has more than 30 years of experience cooking in prestigious kitchens throughout the world, including positions in Argentina, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Singapore, France, England, and the US. Most recently as Vice President of Culinary for Starr Catering Group and an 18-year veteran with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in multiple worldwide locations. Ashley has also been published in multiple cookbooks and media outlets, as well as having hosted an award-winning PBS television series, Cuisine Culture. Classically trained in France and England, Ashley has cooked in several Michelin-Starred restaurants including the famed Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower. His international experience and sophisticated approach to global fare make Ashley a natural leader of the Di Bruno Bros. Culinary Team.
The inaugural champion of Play Brawl was David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation and the 2019 champs are Marc Brownstein, President and CEO of The Brownstein Group and Joe Zarett, Founder Zarett Rehab and Fitness, who teamed up for a scene from “Rocky.” Past competitors include: Marcus Allen, CEO Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region; Ray Didinger, Author, Journalist, Broadcaster, and Emmy Award Winning Writer and Producer of NFL Films; Bill Golderer, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Philadelphia; Shaina Humphries, Anchor Fox 29 News; Carol Saline, Journalist, Broadcaster, Author, and PTC of Directors; Michael Smerconish, Sirius XM Radio Host, CNN Television Host, Columnist, Author; Joseph Watkins, White House Aide and MSNBC Political Commentator; David Yager, President and CEO of the University of the Arts, John Fry, President, Drexel University; Judith M. von Seldeneck, Founder and Chairman, Diversified Search; Molly D. Shepard, MS, MSM, President & CEO, The Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design; Raheem Brock, former NFL Indianapolis Colts player (and Super Bowl winner), and performer on Fox’s Gotham and Bull on CBS; and Tony La Russa, Baseball Hall of Famer, and three-time World Series-winning Manager of the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals.
Tickets and sponsorships for the event start at $150 and are available online at www.philatheatreco.org or by calling 215-985-1400 x 117.
Play Brawl is supported by Comcast NBCUniversal, Rhonda & David L Cohen, Ballard Spahr, LLP, Cozen O’Connor, Victor Keen & Jeanne Ruddy Keen, Fox Rothschild, LLP, Sally Katz & David Price, MIS Capital LLC, PNC Bank, and Reed Smith.
ABOUT PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY
Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience. PTC balances its Philadelphia roots with a national point of view that combines a taste for adventure with a dedication to new American plays and musicals.
Founded in 1974, PTC has presented 140 world and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. PTC has received more than 201 nominations and 55 awards from the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor by opening the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.
PTC’s 2020-2021 season is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, Independence Blue Cross, Center City Film & Video, and PNC Arts Alive.