The enchantment and enrichment of young performing artists are going to be celebrated by a one-night-only Evening of Song on Monday, September 15, at 7 p.m. at Birdland, located at 315 West 44th Street in New York City. Those scheduled to appear are Chita Rivera (Foundation chairperson), Rosie O’Donnell, Tony winner Jessie Mueller, BD Wong, Telly Leung (Godspell), Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party), Anika Larsen, Jim Caruso, Marcy and Zina, and scholarship recipient Donald Webber. Jr (Motown).
Supported by Chita, Rosie and Jessie, this enchanting fundraiser hopes to raise the awareness of community leaders, businesses and individuals, encouraging them to participate and contribute to the foundation’s scholarship fund. Dan Watt, the founder of Art Attack, kindly agreed to talk about the foundation and the inspiring Evening of Song.
Dan, can you explain a little more about what exactly The Art Attack Foundation is and what it does?
I founded it 10 years ago. The reason I did it was I felt that there was a need for scholarships in all of the areas of the performing arts, and they needed to be a different type. A lot of times scholarships are offered at a particular studio. I felt that if you were a student and you were taking voice lessons from a particular vocal instructor, for example, and then your father lost his job and your family could no longer pay for it like they used to… So many students have to switch and go to a place for a scholarship, other than the place they are already learning from. We then deal directly with your particular studio and the instructor, and you get to stay with your teacher. We help supplement the cost.
Are you a performing artist yourself?
I used to be a dancer. I started in Cleveland when I was 14 and then studied in New York. I was in two dance companies, a touring company and one in L.A. Then I moved into directing and producing. From that I started the foundation.
Can you mention some of the recipients of the scholarship that our readers might be familiar with?
There is a gentleman by the name of Kyle Leland. He was actually in Memphis on Broadway. I flew in for his opening night. He was a student of mine for six years when I was a dance teacher and was looking for a scholarship that we gave out. Then there is a gentleman by the name of Donald Webber Jr, who is going to be singing at the benefit. He was one of our scholarship students. He was in Motown. Another girl is Shannon Mills, and she is in the touring company of Wicked and an understudy for Glinda. And that’s a pretty good track record!
I would say so.
We also gave scholarships to Rosie O’Donnell’s School. Oh, and we just got Jessie Mueller, and Andy Karl, the guy that plays Rocky – and you have the exclusive on that because he only signed up yesterday – and also Margo, who plays Adrian in Rocky.
So Chita Rivera and Rosie O’Donnell are actually appearing on September 15?
Yup. Chita ends the night with two songs. I think that once the Broadway world announces Jessie Mueller and Andy, we’ll sell out!
Jessie Mueller tells us: “I was lucky to be exposed to the arts at a young age through my parents, who are also artists. When I said, ‘I want to go to school for musical theater,’ they understood and didn’t shake their heads. But the financial burden of studying in the arts was a lot to take on. My parents understood the risk, but not all do. Talented kids need help to pursue and develop their talents. Thar’s what Art Attack does. It helps provide the actual means to get these kids started. I am proud to support that.”