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Jennifer Holliday sings “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” to Backstage at the Geffen audience members. Photo by Jordan Strauss.

Jennifer Holliday sings “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” to Backstage at the Geffen audience members. Photo by Jordan Strauss.

Jennifer Holliday surprises audience with cold open at Geffen Playhouse's $1.3M fundraiser

LOS ANGELES (May 20, 2019) — Geffen Playhouse raised more than $1.3 million for the theater’s education, community engagement and artistic initiatives at its 17th annual Backstage at the Geffen fundraiser held May 19, it was announced today. Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon franchise, The Color Purple, Dreamgirls) presented the Artistic Impact Award for Harry Belafonte, which was accepted by daughter Gina Belafonte on his behalf, and Jane Fonda (Grace & Frankie, Book Club, 9 to 5) presented the Distinction in Theater Award to Lily Tomlin.

The evening of unscripted, unannounced performers and storytellers was hosted by Julia Sweeney and featured personal behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Academy Award and Golden Globe Award winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting); Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award winner Kathy Bates (Misery, Fried Green Tomatoes); Rosemarie DeWitt (La La Land, Mad Men); Geffen Playhouse Artistic Director Matt Shakman and musician Chris Stills; as well as musical performances by actor and singer/songwriter Matt Doyle; Tony Award and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holliday; Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Stephen Stills; a performance by lauded spoken word/hip-hop artist Marnino Toussaint; and a special dance choreographed exclusively for Backstage at the Geffen by Emmy Award winner Mia Michaels and renowned dancer Desmond Richardson, also directed by Michaels and performed by Richardson.

Backstage at the Geffen recognizes the accomplishments of leaders in the artistic community, supports the theater’s mission to produce original, quality work and raises funds for its award-winning education and community engagement programs, which bring live theater to more than 15,000 underserved youth, seniors and veterans annually.

City National Bank served as Title Sponsor for its 10th consecutive year. Presenting Sponsors included Audi of America returning for its 14th year, and K Period Media returning for its third year.

Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs were Sidney Poitier, Quincy Jones, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Mellody Hobson, George Lucas and Bette Midler. Event Co-Chairs included Adi Greenberg, Loretta Everett Kaufman and Linda Bernstein Rubin.

Backstage at the Geffen was produced by Kevin Bright, Gil Cates Jr. and Matt Shakman.

A post-show reception featured spirits and cocktails sponsored by Sipsmith London and Effen Vodka.


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