The winter blues are making way for a sunny spring, and Tony-nominated actor Paul Hecht, in conjunction with stage producer and director Amanda Kate Joshi, musician and photographer Ralph Gibson and Guild Hall Chief Curator Christina Mossaides Strassfield, has organized a seasonal celebration of poems focused on rejuvenation, rebirth and creativity for the benefit of Guild Hall. Recited in the spirit of hopefulness for a new season, “Reawakenings” will be voiced by some of America’s greatest actors while a survey of curated images from Guild Hall’s permanent collection scroll on screen. The program on Sunday, May 23, at 8 p.m., will take place virtually on Guild Hall’s YouTube channel.
A true marriage of visual and performing arts, the evening will feature many luminaries from Guild Hall’s storied Academy of the Arts, complete with the music of guitar virtuoso Ralph Gibson. The star-studded cast features F. Murray Abraham, Karen Akers, Wyatt Cenac, Michael Cerveris, Cornelius Eady, Barbara Feldon, Lynnette R. Freeman, Joanna Gleason, Bill Irwin, Cherry Jones, Susan Lucci, Austin Pendleton, Tony Roberts, Mercedes Ruehl, Salman Rushdie, Chris Sarandon, Michael Stuhlbarg and Harris Yulin.
As an actor, Hecht received a Tony nomination for Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” (1968) and an Obie for Pirandello’s “Henry IV” (1990). He has been in dozens of plays in New York City and around the country including the title role of Cyrano in the world premiere of Anthony Burgess’s adaptation at the Old Guthrie. He has recorded many books and curated a poetry series at the Cornelia Street Café. Paul lives in Springs and Brooklyn with lighting designer Peggy Eisenhauer.
“I met with Josh Gladstone at the Springs General Store last fall to share my idea for a poetry fundraiser for the 90th anniversary of Guild Hall. I had no idea it would turn into a 30-minute ‘Zoomie’ with such a wonderful — and generous — group of actors,” Hecht said. “My charge was to use anyone who had been associated with Guild Hall, and I’ve pretty much kept to that including 5-year-old Ivy Brondo, the son of staff members Jennifer and Joe Brondo, who opens and closes the piece. Christina Strassfield was invaluable in helping me select the images from the extensive Guild Hall permanent collection, and Patrick Dawson was equally invaluable in editing the piece. Ralph Gibson donated some atmospheric music, and the piece was born. I was persuaded to add a short and favorite poem, ‘The Mower,’ by Philip Larkin, which ends with ‘We should be careful of each other — we should be kind while there is still time.’ I couldn’t be more delighted with the way it has turned out and I hope many people will be able to enjoy it.”
Of the project, Strassfield said: “It was a delightful journey to be able to listen to each of the actors read their poems several times. To write down what emotions penetrated my mind and to discuss with Paul what feeling the art we were to select should invoke to enhance the poem. Some images came immediately to mind, and I showed those to Paul and others took a little more research and exploration of Guild Hall Museum’s permanent collection website to find the perfect fit. The final product is true poetry in motion.”
Virtual benefit tickets are available at support levels of $20 to $75. Only one registration per household is required. A private link will be sent to all ticket holders 24 hours prior to the broadcast. Visit guildhall.org for details.