It meant a big thing, and it had lots of swing: State Theatre celebrates at annual Benefit Gala

State Theatre New Jersey certainly knows how to throw a wild, wild party.

More than 300 attended its 2019 Benefit Gala on Saturday, held at both the nearly 98-year-old venue and the nearby Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick.

“The annual Benefit Gala is our most important fundraising event of the year,” Scott Fergang, chair of the board of State Theatre New Jersey, said.

Guests were first transported back to the decadent world of the Roaring Twenties at MetLife’s Vaudeville Cocktail Hour, with arts supporters enjoying live music from big band musicians, swing with professional dancers — and even “secret” admission to a speakeasy in State Theatre New Jersey’s new studio space, complete with prohibition cocktails and all that jazz.

The State Theatre’s 2019 Corporate Honoree Award and Leadership in the Arts Award were presented to MetLife and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) as dinner began, followed by a silent auction and an interactive and intimate performance by Tony and Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and premier jazz pianist Bill Charlap.

“The support of our honorees has had an incredible impact on the arts community, and we are truly grateful for their exceptional dedication,” Sarah K. Chaplin, CEO and president of State Theatre New Jersey, said. “I hope this evening is a joyous example of the power of live performance that is at the center of our mission and purpose.

“As we envision the next 100 years of this historic gem, I am excited to continue State Theatre’s commitment to presenting the finest artists from around the world, as the arts play such an important part in our society,” she added. “We already are looking forward to the amazing collaborations that will happen in our community going forward, particularly as the (New Brunswick Performing Arts Center) theaters next door open and our sister arts institutions are our close neighbors once again.”

More than 200,000 visit State Theatre New Jersey annually for over 300 performances and events, while State Theatre New Jersey’s nationally recognized education and community engagement programs touch the lives of more than 35,000 students, teachers and families each year with accessible and affordable arts programming.

“While our ticket sales cover approximately 55 percent of our operating costs, it takes a community to be able to support our theater,” Fergang said. “Friends like you, who believe in our mission, enable State Theatre to present renowned international artists, sustain arts education programs that enrich children from pre-K through grade 12, and continue to overcome the barriers to arts access.”