NEW YORK CITY: The Broadway League announced the honorees of the 2023 League Awards as part of the 33rd annual Spring Road Conference. Since 1992, the League Awards have recognized those who have displayed exemplary service to the Broadway’s touring industry and are regarded as innovators in their profession.
This year’s League Awards recipients include Gina Vernaci (Distinguished Lifetime Service Award), Chris Meyers (Outstanding Achievement in Road Group Sales), Kelli Palan (Outstanding Achievement in Road Marketing & Press), Scott Hemerling (Outstanding Achievement in Road Marketing & Press), Marisol Sánchez-Best (Outstanding Achievement in Education and Engagement), Ron Legler (Outstanding Achievement in Presenter Management), and Kara Gebhart (George MacPherson Road Award).
Honorees in the Star of Touring Broadway category are Congresswoman Kathy Manning (North Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District), Jim Pugh (chairman of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts), and the Boston Area Lexus Dealers Association.
“Congratulations to this year’s League Award honorees, who exemplify excellence in their endeavors of presenting and enriching Broadway in their hometowns,” said Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin in a statement. “Broadway is a vital national industry. During the 2022-23 season, touring Broadway reached an audience of more than 16.5 million with 39 shows touring in more than 180 cities. This would not be possible without the tremendous support and efforts of our members.”
Gina Vernaci recently completed her tenure as president and chief executive officer of Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, where she was responsible for all operations of the nonprofit performing arts center. She has led initiatives that have helped to position Playhouse Square as the region’s premier cultural, tourist, and entertainment destination and the country’s largest performing arts center, second only to New York City’s Lincoln Center. Gina secured and built a Broadway series for E.J. Thomas Hall at the University of Akron and continues to champion programming collaborations with libraries, colleges, resident companies, and area nonprofit theatres.
Chris Meyers, originally from Illinois, has been based in Cleveland with Playhouse Square for the past 20 years. After serving as season ticket manager for six years, Chris became sales manager, a position he held for 13 years before his recent promotion to the position of senior manager of group sales. In addition to his work for Playhouse Square, Chris currently serves as co-chair of the Broadway League’s Road Group Sales Committee and Forum Planning Committee.
Kelli Palan, director of regional engagement at Disney Theatrical Group, has been with the company since 2000. Over the past two decades, she has provided marketing and sales promotion to the North American tours, including Beauty and the Beast, AIDA, The Lion King, High School Musical, Newsies, Aladdin, and Frozen. Kelli also worked on press and marketing for the pre-Broadway engagements of Aladdin in Toronto and Frozen in Denver.
Scott Hemerling works with a dedicated team at Disney Theatrical Productions on the marketing of The Lion King and Frozen national tours. Born in Michigan, raised in Fort Lauderdale, and currently residing in New York City, he graduated from the University of Florida and is a member of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers.
Marisol Sánchez-Best was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and focuses her work on theatre access initiatives and providing platforms for historically underrepresented communities. She is the director of education and community engagement at Seattle Theatre Group. She previously worked at La Jolla Playhouse as the associate director of education. She has worked in the U.S. and Mexico as a theatre educator, actor, and teaching artist trainer.
Ron Legler is a 28-year veteran of the industry and just celebrated his ninth year as president of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, home of the Hippodrome Theatre in Downtown Baltimore. After nine years in group sales, Ron served as president of Florida Theatrical Association (FTA), presenting touring Broadway in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando. Ron also served as president of Orlando’s Downtown Arts District and vice president of the Orlando International Fringe Festival. In 2022, Ron helped develop and pass a bill creating Maryland’s first theatrical tax credit to allow Broadway shows the ability to develop, rehearse, build, and launch their pre-Broadway show or pre-touring activities in Maryland.
Kara Gebhart is the chief operating officer of the Booking Group (TBG), where she has worked to bring over 27 Tony-winning musicals and plays to theatres across North America, including Rent, Mamma Mia!, The Producers, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton, and Six. She is an active member of the Broadway League, currently sitting on the Broadway League’s Road Presenters/Intra-Industry Committee and the Spring Road Conference Planning Committee.
Kathy Manning represents North Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District which includes Guilford and Rockingham Counties, and parts of Forsyth and Caswell Counties – an area known as the Triad.
Jim Pugh, the chairman of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts from 2003–2022, has been a visionary at the arts center since its original inception in 2003. He committed his time, expertise, persistence, and determination to see the project come to life. The Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater has hosted thousands of regional artists and performances since opening in 2014. Under his leadership, the arts center opened the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater to bring Broadway performances to new heights for the Central Florida community.
The Boston Area Lexus Dealers Association is composed of six Lexus dealerships who have joined together to give back to the local community with sponsorship efforts. The Boston Area LDA is comprised of Lexus of Watertown, Ira Lexus, Lexus Northborough, Ira Lexus of Manchester, Herb Chambers Lexus of Sharon, and Herb Chambers Lexus of Hingham.
The Broadway League is the national trade association for the Broadway industry. The League’s 700-plus members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in nearly 200 markets in North America and internationally.
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