Brimmer Street residents David Epstein and Betsy Banks Epstein will be honored with the Wimberly Award for their enduring support of the Huntington Theatre Company at its annual Spotlight Spectacular benefit gala on Monday, May 6, at Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts at 539 Tremont St. Cocktails will be served beginning at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, a performance and live auction at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m very appreciative of [being chosen to receive the award], and I guess it’s a reflection of the commitment my wife and I feel towards the theatre, and a testament that the theatre is an important contributor to the cultural environment of the city,” David said. “We hope the gala is an opportunity to expose the Huntington to a broader segment of the Boston population, and that attendees will fall in love with its work.”
A co-founder of Boston-based real estate development firm The Abbey Group and a co-investor in the Boston Celtics, David is involved in many local philanthropic endeavors, including his current tenure as chairman of the Huntington’s board of trustees.
His involvement with the wvHuntington dates back nearly 20 years when a friend invited him David learn about the organization, and he said he was instantly impressed with “what [he] saw on- and offstage.”
In particular, David said he “liked what they were doing with the Education Program and community outreach to bring more people to the theatre through their subsidized-ticket program.”
When the Boston University sold the Huntington building to QMG Huntington LLC in 2017, leaving the theatre’s future uncertain, it was David who helped negotiate an arrangement with the developer by which it sold the venue to the Huntington for $1 while allowing the theater to enter into 99-year lease for $1 per year to operate the adjacent 14,000-square-foot lobby, which the Huntington now calls “Boston’s Living Room.”
“Because of my familiarity with the real estate process, I was able to create a strategy where the Huntington could secure ownership of the theatre in exchange for the developer enhancing their project through community benefits,” he said.
The Huntington is also undertaking a complete historical renovation of the theatre, which was built in 1925 and was the first non-profit theatre in the U.S.
Besides supporting the Huntington, David has served on the board of directors of various neighborhood and civic organizations citywide, including the Back Bay Architectural Commission, the Back Bay Neighborhood Association and the Trustees of Copley Square. He is currently both a board member and Executive Committee member of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District and also serves on the board of directors of the Stratton Mountain School and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation.
Author of feature stories published in The Boston Globe and Cambridge Chronicle; several anthologies; and the recent book “Still Becoming: Conversations with People in Their Sixties,” which she co-wrote with her sister-in-law Elinor Svenson, Betsy came to the Huntington several years after David and now serves as co-chair of its Education Committee.
“My background is in education, and I have three grown, married children and eight grandchildren, so the outreach we do in the Greater Boston area is important to me,” Betsy said.
The Huntington’s Education Department serves more than 30,000 students, teachers, and community organizations each year via student matinees, statewide Poetry Out Loud, and the August Wilson Monologue Competition, according to the theatre’s website, with collaborators that include Boston Public Schools, Codman Academy Charter Public School, YMCA, National Endowment for the Arts and the Mass Cultural Council, among other community organizations.
“We run a Student Matinee Series that is not fueled by economics, so any available school or school system can apply for seats,” Best said. “Another thing we do is provide educational materials for each school, so the kids can come to the theatre prepared to watch the production…and see for themselves the magic of live theatre, as well as the energy that goes on between performers and the audience.”
Like her husband, Betsy said she is honored that an organization she has as much respect for as the Huntington has chosen to recognize her and David with the Wimberly Award.
“I feel very honored to be recognized by the Huntington Theatre,” Betsy said. “They have a great staff and great group of volunteers to work with. I love theatre, and the Huntington does so much for the Greater Boston community, which is very meaningful for me.”
“The Epsteins’ dedication to the Huntington has been extraordinary,” Managing Director Michael Maso told the website Broadway World. “We are tremendously grateful for David’s visionary leadership of the Huntington Board of Trustees during this moment of monumental transformation for the company, and for Betsy’s passion for and support of the Huntington’s education programs. While David is working to create a new Huntington, Betsy is serving young people and building future audiences. And through their generous leadership gift to our comprehensive campaign, both Betsy and David are ensuring that our work will continue for generations.”
This year, the Huntington’s Spotlight Spectacular event, which raises money to support it’s programs, including its award-winning youth, education and community programs, will also honor Norma Jean Calderwood Artistic Director Peter DuBois with the Wimberly Award.
Visit https://www.huntingtontheatre.org/support/gala/ for ticket prices and more information.