Gala Honorees George Faison and Frank Bennack & Dr Mary Lake Polan

About George Faison

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Geroge Faison is a celebrated producer, writer, composer, director, choreographer and dancer. He made history in 1975 when he became the first African American to win a Tony Award for Best Choreography for “The Wiz.” He began his career as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. His Broadway career began with the musical “Purlie.” After leaving the Ailey Company he formed his own company, the George Faison Universal Dance Experience.  He has also choreographed and staged concerts for musical greats including Ashford and Simpson, Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Dionne Warwick, Stephanie Mills and many more.  He has directed productions in major theater venues throughout the United States, and created several theatrical productions of his own.

In 2000, George opened the Faison Firehouse Theater in Harlem hailed by the media as “Hollywood in Harlem, bringing culture and art to the community.  Since its opening Faison has launched the Firehouse Respect Project, a mentoring program which continues to reach the underserved youth in the tri state area and especially those in Harlem while also presenting professional performing arts projects at his state of the art theater.  Broadway Credits

About Frank Bennack and Dr. Mary Lake Polan

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We first met Frank and Mary several summer seasons ago. They had taken their grandchildren to see one of our commissioned theatre for a young audience shows, The Adventures of Peter Pan.  It was a unique production because two actors played all the roles in the story.  Their grandchildren sang and danced songs and lines from the play for weeks following the performance. (We're still not sure who had more fun at the show them or the children).

Later that year, Frank and Mary approached us telling of their family’s enjoyment and if they could help support the young family theater program at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan. Their family foundation helped underwrite our theatre for a young audience (TYA) show touring to elementary schools across CT (of that very show). Some of the best reviews we received were from the students.  A 2nd grade student told us “it was the best show she had ever seen!”  Teachers, Principals and PTA mothers have asked us to return with a new show regularly. Thank you Frank and Mary!

The grandchildren continue to visit each summer and like many other families, Frank and Mary schedule their summer visits and vacations around our theatre shows.  It is their shared vision of philanthropy that creates the opportunities for non-profit arts organizations like us to connect families, children and friends through quality theatre in our community.

Frank is the Vice Chair of the Hearst Corporation and former CEO. On the philanthropic side, Frank was the Trustees Chair of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Chair of the Paley Center for Media, and Chair Emeritus of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Read more about Frank in his recent autobiography - "Leave Something on the Table".

Dr. Mary Lake Polan was chair of obstetrics and gynecology for 15 years at Stanford University School of Medicine and returned to the Yale School of Medicine faculty as a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences.  Mary Lake is an Emerita Trustee of Connecticut College and is currently a member of the Board of Overseers of the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.  Recently, Mary and Frank endowed a professorship at Yale. It was inspired by the urgency they feel about combating ovarian cancer.

Frank and Mary's philanthropic efforts for the arts and medicine help both the soul and body of our community.  From all of us who have benefited from the summer theatre and its programs,  we say to Frank and Mary,

BRAVI!

Ed & Melody Libonati

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STONC. The Summer Theatre of New Canaan is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit professional regional theatre company.