NEW YORK CITY: Artists Striving To End Poverty (ASTEP), a nonprofit organization founded by Broadway musical director, conductor, orchestrator, and musician Mary-Mitchell Campbell, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Paul Robeson Citation Award presented by the Actors Equity Foundation.
Created in 1971, the award honors individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Robeson devoted his life: dedication to the universal brotherhood of all humankind, commitment to the freedom of conscience and of expression, belief in the artist’s responsibility to society, respect for the dignity of the individual, and concerns for and service to all humans of any race or nationality. The award was voted on by members of the Actors’ Equity Paul Robeson Committee, chaired by Allyson Tucker Mitchell.
ASTEP was conceived by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and students at Juilliard, where she was on the faculty from 2003-2009 and continues to conduct workshops, with a mission “to transform the lives of youth using the most powerful tool they had: their art. Today, ASTEP connects performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world to awaken their imaginations, foster critical thinking, and help them break the cycle of poverty.” Among its many programs, ASTEP runs a six-week summer arts academy for refugees, provides volunteers in a nursing home to work with kids in Washington Heights, focuses on children with HIV and other health challenges, and conducts performance workshops in homeless shelters and community centers, all run by a network of dedicated volunteers.
ASTEP joins a distinguished list of previous award winners, including Robeson, Maya Angelou, Alice Childress, Jacques D’Amboise, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Athol Fugard, James Earl Jones, Joe Papp, Sidney Poitier, and George C. Wolfe.
“We are so incredibly honored to be given this award, and we are grateful to the many artists that have volunteered with us and continue to work toward creating better lives for young people,” said Campbell, who continues to serve as ASTEP’s executive director, in a statement. When not at ASTEP, Campbell has a busy musical career. Broadway shows for which she has served as music director and/or conductor include The Addams Family, Company, Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland, and My Love Letter to Broadway, Kristin Chenoweth’s upcoming limited engagement concert at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
The Paul Robeson Award will be presented at 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, at the Eastern Regional Membership Meeting of Actors’ Equity Association in New York City. A major fund-raiser is planned for Dec. 12, which will be ASTEP’s annual Christmas concert at Joe’s Pub in downtown Manhattan.
The Actors Equity Foundation, a philanthropic and humanitarian nonprofit organization, was created in 1962 to aid and assist the members of the acting profession and to promote the theatre arts. It is separate from Actors’ Equity Association and is funded by estate bequests and individual donations.