By Melissa Griegel . . .

The 2022 Theatre Forward Gala took place on April 4th at the Edison Ballroom. The celebration honored Tony and Obie Award winning director, producer, and actor Kenny Leon (Director: A Raisin In the Sun; Steel Magnolias; Hairspray Live), and Susan Somersille Johnson from Prudential Financial for their leadership in the arts.

Kenny Leon, Phylicia Rashad
Caroline, or Change – Cast
Dan Williams, Brittany Johnson
DeWitt Fleming Jr.
Monique Smith, Annastasia Victory
Alexander Bello
Susan Somersille Johnson, Brittney Johnson

Phylicia Rashad (Skeleton Crew) was on hand to present Leon with his award, and Brittney Johnson was the presenter for the honoree Somersille Johnson. The evening was rounded out with entertainment by Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked), Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess), Alexander Bello (Caroline, Or Change), Brittney Johnson (Wicked), and DeWitt Fleming Jr. (The Tap Dance Kid), along with accompanists Joseph Joubert, Annastasia Victory, and Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Shereen Pimentel (West Side Story) emceed the evening.

Patron Board
Mitch and Kim Auslander

Guests began the evening with a cocktail party upstairs at the Edison Ballroom, and an opportunity to bid on silent auction items. Entertainment and awards were in the main ballroom, accompanied by dinner and dessert.

Theatre Forward is a non-profit arts organization that supports a network of 19 prominent regional theatres in their efforts to enrich communities and make theatre accessible to all. By connecting these theaters to funding and resources on a national level, Theatre Forward champions the creation of thought-provoking performances for diverse audiences and helps drive education and community programs that fuel positive social change and meaningful engagement. Theatre Forward aims to increase access and opportunity for all to experience theatre. For more information, please visit

Photos by Melissa Griegel

Lead Photo: Joseph Joubert, Kenny Leon, Norm Lewis