Upper Darby Summer Stage receives historic grant


UPPER DARBY (July 15, 2021)Four new leadership gifts, including a historic grant from the Rosenthal Family Foundation, have assured the continuation of Upper Darby Summer Stage, the acclaimed musical theater program which has captivated regional audiences since 1976. Program alum and Everybody Loves Raymond star Monica Horan Rosenthal is providing the lead grant, joining Upper Darby native Tina Fey, the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation (UDAEF), and the Broughton Foundation Trust as major private donors in addition to the longtime sponsorship of Upper Darby Township.

The Rosenthal Foundation grant is believed to be the largest non-government award to a performing arts entity in Delaware County, bringing the first-year fundraising total to $500K. The gifts will be celebrated as part of “Summer Stage Night” at Rose Tree Park (Media, Pa.) on Saturday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m., with Upper Darby mayor Barbarann Keffer, state representative Mike Zabel and UDAEF president Terry Tracy among those expected to attend. Headlining the Rose Tree performance will be the Upper Darby Summer Stage Shootings Stars, along with casts from the upcoming children’s theater shows The Wind in the Willows, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and the Tuck Everlasting mainstage cast.

The cast of “Hunchback of Notre Dame”, a Summer Stage Mainstage Production in 2017

For the entirety of its 46 years, Summer Stage has been jointly supported by Upper Darby Township, the Upper Darby School District and housed in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Upper Darby High School. It is best known for its award-winning children’s theater program, which annually draws more than 35,000 patrons and last week returned from a yearlong COVID-19 hiatus with four sold-out performances of The Wizard of Oz.

“The model for sustaining community theater has changed,” stated Summer Stage founder and executive/artistic director Harry Dietzler. “With the financial challenges in our township and our schools, it is no longer realistic to rely only upon public funding. We are beyond grateful to Monica and her husband Phil, to Tina and her husband Jeff, as well as the Arts and Education Foundation and many others for making this transition possible. We hope to be back at the PAC and part of the Upper Darby community for many years to come.”

The Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation supports more than 40 programs across four key areas—Arts, Literacy, STEM, Health and Wellness—designed to enhance the educational and cultural offerings for the students and broader township community. It has awarded more than $2M in the past 20 years, impacting over 16,000 students on an annual basis. An expanded partnership with Summer Stage is consistent with the Foundation’s mission as well as ongoing plans to increase private support for Delaware County’s largest community.

“Upper Darby Summer Stage isn’t just best-in-class theater,” said the UDAEF’s Tracy, a one-time Summer Stager. “It is the gold standard of community-based programming. It has been one of the true gems of our township, on- and off-stage, for almost five decades. It is incomparable in terms of values, inclusiveness and sustained excellence.

“The hidden value of Summer Stage simply can’t be measured … what happens on-stage is only the beginning. The program’s impact and the essence of Harry Dietzler must be preserved for future generations.”

Monica Horan Rosenthal

“The Foundation is extremely optimistic about working even more closely with Harry Dietzler and future Summer Stage leadership, as the response from the local philanthropic community has been tremendous. The future—for Summer Stage, the Foundation and the arts in Upper Darby—is very bright.”

The accomplishments of former summer stagers are notable in both quantity and quality. In addition to professionals in the performing arts, countless alumni are working as educators, community leaders and influencers in the non-profit sector. In terms of economic impact, the program offers summer employment for up to 130 young adults and the Performing Arts Center generates well over $800,000 in annual ticket sales and sponsorships.

“Our goal is not only to continue, but expand those opportunities,” added Mr. Dietzler. “Funds raised by the Arts and Education Foundation will reduce the existing financial obligations of the Township and School District, while at the same time continuing the enormously successful partnerships that have made Summer Stage such a vital program for our young people.”

“The hidden value of Summer Stage simply can’t be measured,” stated Ms. Horan Rosenthal, upon her most recent gift. “What happens on-stage is only the beginning. The program’s impact and the essence of Harry Dietzler must be preserved for future generations. Phil and I and so many others are delighted to help make that happen.”

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