Tony LoBianco and
Isabella Stevenson, Tommy Tune
and Liliane Montevecchi
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND
Isabelle Stevenson Helps
Sell Trees On Broadway
Story and Photos by Tim Boxer
UCIE ARNAZ said she was kvelling to serve as benefit chair of a Jewish National Fund dinner honoring Isabelle Stevenson, the venerated board chairman of the American Theatre Wing Monday at the New York Marriott Marquis.
“This may come as a shock to you,” she said, “but I’m actually not Jewish. I’m a Cuban-American shiksa. In our house we consider theater our religion.”
Tony LoBianco, LeRoy Reams, Tommy Tune, Liliane Montevecchi, Celeste Holm, Marian Seldes, Karen Ziemba, Audra McDonald and Shubert honcho Gerald Schoenbrun came to praise the woman who’s been a prominent figure in theatrical circles for 35 years, not least as head of the annual Tony Awards.
Laura Mason, one of Isabelle’s three daughters, said her mother taught her “the meaning of tzedaka before I even knew how to say it.”
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a fire department chaplain, said he came to buy a tree. He remembered his mother giving him $2 to buy a tree. “I see you’ve raised the price,” he cracked.
LoBianco recalled going to Israel in 1973 to make a biblical film. The day he arrived, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Everybody was leaving the country, but Tony convinced his producer and director to stay. They went out in the desert to film.
“There were two brothers in a scene,” Tony said. “When the army called up, they took off their robes, picked up their gear, and went off to battle.”
When Stevenson got up to receive a Tree of Life Award from New York chapter president Rita Salfeld, she knew what the actors in the Tony Awards feel when they thank everybody, “starting with their agent and ending with their agent.”