Emmy, Grammy and Golden Globe winning actor Beau Bridges was honored with the inaugural Betty Garrett Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th Anniversary Gala of Theatre West September 13 at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood. My boyfriend and I enjoyed having dinner in the grand ballroom and hearing about the accomplishments and tales of so many seasoned actors. The best part of the night – $200,000 was raised, which will help keep theatre alive in the imaginations of generations of children. The “Theatre in Schools” program created by Theatre West brings theatrical experiences to thousands of under-served LA Unified School District children, many of whom attend schools with no arts programs.
Founded in 1962, Theatre West, an internationally acclaimed non-profit arts organization, is home to the oldest continuously running theater company in Los Angeles. Dedicated to supporting artists and enriching the community, Theatre West provides world class theater presentations for adults, a professional children’s theatre and much needed arts education programs in under-served city schools.
At the Gala, 250 plus VIP guests enjoyed fine wines from Beaulieu Vineyards from the benchmark Napa Valley winery, with 112 years of history in fine wine making. The delicious BV wines were coupled with a delectable gourmet menu and smooth jazz sounds by the Blue Cats. Two time Academy Award winning actress Sally Field spoke about her ‘husband’ from Norma Rae, followed by Norman Lear presenting Bridges with the inaugural Betty Garrett Lifetime Achievement Award. Highlighting the evening was a collection of musical numbers performed by Theatre West members and a happy birthday cake to one of the Academy’s oldest supporters, Connie Sawyer.
“In forging our future,” said Theatre West Executive Director John Gallogly, “we strive to honor our past. It seems especially fitting that we honor Beau Bridges with our inaugural Betty Garrett Lifetime Achievement Award, to be given annually to the artist whose work, both at Theatre West and in the larger world, best exemplifies the talent, generosity of spirit and dedication to craft, family and Theatre West that Betty Garrett epitomized in her life.”
Bridges has been a member of Theatre West for over 45 years. Like the late actress Betty Garrett, his family enjoys a rich history with the program. His brother Jeff attended Theatre West early in his career. His daughter Emily has been a member for four years. Together, father and daughter co-authored “Acting: The First Six Lessons,” a play published by Samuel French. They recently performed the world premiere of the play at Theatre West.
Theatre West was born in January of 1962 when a group of transplanted New York actors who had come to Los Angeles to practice their craft in film and television found themselves desperately missing theatre. They banded together to create a cooperative environment where they could create exciting theatre and develop and challenge their talents, participating in weekly workshops for actors and writers, Shakespearean and Musical Comedy Workshops and an Associate Workshop for young talent who could study for free.
Among those founding members are some of the greatest talents who have worked in theatre, film and television and include Philip Abbott, Charles Aidman, Barbara Bain, Bill Berger, Robert Blake, Bill Blinn, Ray Bradbury, Beau Bridges, Curt Conway, Richard Dreyfuss, Sally Field, Betty Garrett, Harold Gould, Bridget Hanley, Earl Holliman, Sandy Kenyon, Martin Landau, Scott Marlowe, John McLiam, Lee Meriwether, Jack Nicholson, Carroll O’Connor, Chazz Palminteri, Sidney Pollack, Sherwood Schwartz, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Joyce Van Patten, Paul Winfield, Lloyd and Barbara Schwartz and many more.
Several of the original plays that grew out of Theatre West workshops went to Broadway including Spoon River Anthology and Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale which was made into a film directed, produced and starring Robert De Niro. Theatre West’s work has been honored with Tony Awards, Obies, LA Drama Critics Awards, NAACP Image Awards, Drama-Logue Awards and internationally by the BBC Scotland as Best of the Fest, awarded the coveted Cover of the Scotsman at the Edinburgh Festival and Best Ensemble Award at the Dublin Film Festival.
At the core of Theatre West’s mission is the desire to educate and keep theatre alive in the imaginations of generations of children. The “Theatre in Schools” program brings theatrical experiences to thousands of under-served LA Unified School District children, many of whom attend schools with no arts programs and this is their only exposure to theatre. In 1984, the award-winning Storybook Theatre for children 3-9 years old was developed by Lloyd Schwartz and Barbara Mallory to present non-threatening, interactive musical theatre performed by professional members of Actors Equity Association. Storybook Theatre has been honored by The United States Senate and House of Representatives, the County Board of Supervisors, the City of Los Angeles and Mayor’s office and continues to garner rave reviews as it delights children with their first theatre experience.
For more information or to see how you can donate, please visit theatrewest.org.