Abrons Celebrates Playhouse Centennial With Honors and a Star-Studded Jamboree

Woodie King Jr., accepting one of the first ever "Spirit of the Playhouse" awards at the Abrons Playhouse. Photo by The Lo-Down.
Woodie King Jr., accepting one of the first ever "Spirit of the Playhouse" awards at the Abrons Playhouse. Photo by The Lo-Down.
Woodie King Jr., accepting one of the first ever “Spirit of the Playhouse” awards at the Abrons Playhouse. Photo by The Lo-Down.

Abrons Arts Center and Henry Street Settlement continued celebrating the Abrons’ Playhouse centennial with a “jamboree” fundraising event last night.  The evening was hosted by actor and comedian Mo Rocca and included appearances by Joey Arias and Julie Atlas Muz in their roles as the ghosts of the playhouse’s founders Alice and Irene Lewisohn, which they are performing in the current musical extravaganza, Sisters Follies, from master puppeteer Basil Twist.  

Choreographer Jack Ferver and ABT’s James Whiteside also presented a humorous dance theater piece, “Celebrity of the Year,” solo performer Nilaja Sun brought a scene from her new one-woman show and composer and toy pianist artist Phyllis Chen played a toy piano.

The first ever “Spirit of the Playhouse Awards” were presented to Woodie King, Jr., Phyllis Lamhut, and Paul Taylor. Obie winning playwright Ntozake Shange presented the award to Woodie King Jr. who is the founder of the New Federal Theatre, which was originally based in the Playhouse. King thanked Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Phylicia Rashad and Samuel Jackson, among others, who had performed at the New Federal Theatre and helped to support it through the years.

Broadway actress Jan Maxwell presented the award to Phyllis Lamhut, a renowned choreographer and former principal member of the Alwin Nikolais Dance Company, which was based at Abrons for many years.

Former ABT and then New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Robert La Fosse presented the award to Paul Taylor, which was accepted by his executive director, John Tomlinson.

Performances were rounded out by two dance pieces by the Taylor 2 company before revelers enjoyed an after party curated by Whoop Dee Doo.