Signature Theater to Honor Playwright Katori Hall and Donna Walker-Kuhne at 2022 Gala

Signature Theater, which makes an extended commitment to producing a playwright’s body of work, announces its 2022 Gala in the sweeping lobby of its own Frank Gehry-designed home, The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street).

On Monday, June 13, on the heels of an exciting re-opening season-with acclaimed productions of plays by Anna Deavere Smith, Dominique Morisseau, and Samuel D. Hunter, reminding audiences of theater’s transformative power-the gala brings together artists and community members vitally embedded in the organization’s history. They join with attendees to celebrate within the space that serves as an artistic home for its many Resident Playwrights.

The event begins at 6:30pm with a cocktail reception followed by dinner and performances. Starr Busby-from the cast of Dave Malloy’s “beautiful, absorbing, disturbing” (The New York Times) a cappella musical Octet, in which Busby’s performance was noted for “irresistible pathos” (New York Magazine)-hosts the event. Other special guests include Resident Playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara AlegrĂ­a Hudes, who wrote the book and screenplay of In the Heights and premiered Daphne’s Dive at Signature in 2016, and whose latest work, My Broken Language (an adaptation of her memoir of the same name), kicks off Signature’s 2022-2023 Season; and Nicco Annan and Sheldon Best, both original cast members of Resident Playwright Katori Hall’s 2020 world premiere work at Signature, The Hot Wing King, performing an excerpt of the play. (Annan is currently featured on Hall’s P-Valley on STARZ). Steve H. Broadnax III, director of the acclaimed production of Hall’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama winning play, directs the 2022 gala.

At the gala, the theater will present two awards: Katori Hall (Hurt Village, Our Lady of Kibeho, The Hot Wing King) will be honored with the Signature Outstanding Artist Award, and Signature Trustee Donna Walker-Kuhne (Founder & CEO of Walker International Communications Group, Inc.) will receive the Margot Adams Signature Award. Gala co-chairs for this year are Bloomberg Philanthropies, Douglas and Kathy Chittenden, Edward Skyler, Citi, and Nina B. Matis and Alan Gosule.

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To ensure the safety of Signature’s community, all visitors must be fully vaccinated to enter The Pershing Square Signature Center. Boosters are strongly recommended but not required. Additionally, masks must always be worn, except for when actively eating or drinking. Due to the nature of this event, Signature is not accepting any COVID-19 vaccine exemptions. Gala details are subject to change as guidance and health regulations evolve.

About Katori Hall

Katori Hall is a Pulitzer Prize and Olivier Award-winning playwright and television creator/producer hailing from Memphis, Tennessee. A two-time Tony Award nominee, she won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play, The Hot Wing King, which she will soon direct for the first time at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater in early 2023.

Hall is currently the showrunner and executive producer of the Starz drama series, P-Valley, which she adapted from her stage play Pussy Valley. The critically acclaimed and record-breaking series returned for its second season on June 3, 2022. P-Valley was named to countless ‘Best of 2020’ lists for its first season and, among many honors, has received Gotham, Independent Spirit, GLAAD Media, and NAACP Image Award nominations.

Hall recently signed an overall deal with Lionsgate Television to continue to develop and produce groundbreaking content across their linear and streaming platforms. Notably, her deal includes a fund to commission Black playwrights, all of whom will receive mentorship from her.

She most recently wrote and produced the hit Broadway musical, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, based on the life of the iconic performer. She received two Tony Award nominations for her work as both playwright for ‘Best Book of a Musical’ and as producer in the ‘Best Musical’ category; for Tina’s acclaimed West End production, she also received an Olivier nomination for ‘Best New Musical’.

Her play The Mountaintop, which vividly reimagines the final night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, premiered at Theater503 in London in 2009, then transferred to the West End, where Hall won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2010. It later opened on Broadway in October 2011 to critical acclaim in a production starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. The Mountaintop will soon premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from June 6 – July 9, 2023.

Hall’s other works include the award-winning Hurt Village, which is currently in development as a feature film; plus Hoodoo Love, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, WHADDABLOODCLOT!!!, Our Lady of Kibeho, Purple is the Color of Mourning and The Blood Quilt.

She is also the proud recipient of the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Lark Play Development Center Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, two Lecompte du Nouy Prizes from Lincoln Center, Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, NYFA Fellowship, the Columbia University John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement, National Black Theater’s August Wilson Playwriting Award and the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award.

Hall is an alumnus of the Sundance Episodic Lab’s inaugural class, as well as the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. She also participated in Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation Directing Program and directed the award-winning short, “Arkabutla.”

Donna Walker-Kuhne is an award-winning thought leader, lawyer, scholar, educator, writer and strategist for community engagement, audience development, and social justice. Acknowledged as the nation’s foremost expert on Audience Development by the Arts & Business Council, the accomplished arts administrator and adult educator has devoted her professional career to increasing the accessibility and connection to the arts for our nation’s rapidly growing multicultural population. She has raised over $23 million in earned income promoting the arts to diverse communities, and says, “I firmly believe that the arts are the only pure vehicle we have in today’s society that cross cultural and ethnic barriers and allow people to transcend their differences. “

She is the founder and President of Walker International Communications Group, Inc., a 30-year-old boutique marketing, press, and audience development consulting agency. Her team has over 50 years of experience specializing in multicultural marketing, group sales, multicultural press and promotional events. She has developed numerous marketers who have not only contributed to the growth and success of the company but who have also transitioned to share their skills at the nation’s leading arts organizations including Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jazz @ Lincoln Center, The Apollo Theater, and more.

Walker-Kuhne has earned a reputation among performing arts patrons for introducing them to high-quality productions and unique experiences. This comes at a time when arts organizations are struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing cultural landscape and shifting demographics – evidenced by the growth of Latinx, African-American, and Asian American populations and the rising consumerism of Generation Y and Z. As an African -American female entrepreneur, Walker-Kuhne has demonstrated sustainability and consistent delivery of excellence for her clients.

She was formerly Vice President, Marketing and Communications at The Public Theater, where she supervised a team of 40 staff and managed a budget of $12 million. Walker-Kuhne developed a new department, one of the first in the nonprofit arts industry focusing exclusively on community engagement. She was appointed Vice President of Community Engagement at NJPAC in 2016. In 2018, she became a consultant to NJPAC and since that time has been consulting as Senior Advisor, Community Engagement, and charged with developing and deepening relationships with targeted communities through partnerships and special events. Most recently, following the murder of George Floyd, she is leading a new initiative, Standing in Solidarity, a social justice program focused on promoting racial equality through conversations and films that examine some of today’s most pressing issues. These programs have become a model for the performing arts industry.

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