Acts of Love: A Celebration of Children at the Geffen Playhouse
Event Report by Don Rose
(October 15, 2007: Westwood, Los Angeles, CA) Acts of Love was a one-night only celebration of children in the words of those who love them, with inspiring celebrity readings and musical performances to raise money for autism (specifically, the organization Autism Speaks, which has merged with Cure Autism Now) . The fifth-annual Acts of Love show took place at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, California, and like last year, dazzled everyone in attendance with its range of emotional expression, from the heights of joy to the depths of tragedy and everything in between -- through readings as well as marvelous music (featuring a trio of "Dreamgirls"-esque singers who sounded practically perfect and served as the perfect counterpoint to the numerous tales being read onstage).
Each of the dozen performers (including Michael McKean, James Franco, Wendie Malick, Dermot Mulroney, Annette O’Toole, Steven Tobolowsky) took turns reading from selected works, penned by thinkers and writers ranging from Sigmund Freud to Maya Angelou to Martin Luther King to Charles Darwin to king of the one-liners Henny Youngman ("What is a home without children? Quiet."). Some, like Henny's fine line, were short and sweet; other readings were long, and some were emotional roller coasters. Yet nearly every piece did the same thing: move your mind as well as your soul. There were tales of autistic children, of non-afflicted kids, of parents dealing with their offspring, of kids themselves writing about their experiences (including one autistic child who is now an accomplished writer). If I had to summarize the evening in one word (and that's hard for me to ever do), it would be "magic."
After each piece read by one of the performers, narrator Don LaFontaine read the name of who wrote the just-performed work -- a difficult task, due to the almost-instant applause each reading generated by the audience. (You know Don as the voice announcer for nearly every big film commercial; so famous is Don in the VO world that he recently starred in a Geico commercial that pokes fun at his stereotypical voiceover scripts and style.)
After the near-100 minute performance, and a standing ovation, everyone gathered in the lobby and courtyard for fine wine, delectable treats from local Westwood eatery Napa Valley Grille, and drinks courtesy of Stockholm Kristall Vodka. Celebrity guests we spotted, in addition to the night's stars, included Lea Thompson and Katherine Kramer (singer, writer and daughter of legendary director Stanley Kramer).
ABOUT ACTS OF LOVE
Acts of Love is a WordTheatre Production. Created, produced and directed by Cedering Fox. Associate Producer and Dramaturge: Mila Pesko. Proceeds from this event benefited Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks. Previous Acts of Love events have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for autism research. For more information about Acts of Love, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 8-AUTISM.
Upcoming Autism Speaks Event News
Internationally acclaimed, three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Seal will perform live in a one-time-only music and skating production, “The Music of Seal on Ice,'' with a portion of the proceeds of ticket sales to benefit Autism Speaks. The special show, featuring a cast that includes Olympic gold medalists Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano, will take place on December 18, 2007 at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and will be televised nationwide on NBC from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST on New Year's Day. Advance tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster via presale (password: ROSE) until 10 a.m., October 19.
Seal will perform several of his hits live while a cast of Olympic and other world-class skaters interpret his music on the ice. In addition to Yamaguchi and Boitano, other scheduled participants are six-time U.S. Champion and World Champion Todd Eldredge and three-time U.S. Champion and two-time World Bronze Medalist Michael Weiss. Five dollars from every ticket sold for “The Music of Seal on Ice'' will benefit Autism Speaks.
“The passion and heart that is the trademark of Seal's award-winning music clearly goes way beyond his musical talent," said Alison Singer, Executive Vice President of Autism Speaks. "We cannot express our gratitude enough to Seal, NBC, and Disson Skating, not only for helping us raise vital funds to support autism research, but also for shining a bright light on the autism epidemic that now affects 1 in 150 people."
Stephen Disson, whose company, Disson Skating -- along with Comcast Spectacor -- produces ten nationally televised shows a year on NBC, has a personal connection with Autism Speaks. His stepson has autism. “This show will be extra special to me because I know the music of Seal and the skating will be spectacular, but also this will be the first time we're using one of our skating television productions to benefit a worthy cause as well,'' Disson said.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations.
To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org