America's Oldest · Founded 1808

Walnut's Spectacular Gala Concert COME HEAR THE MUSIC PLAY: AN EVENING OF KANDER AND EBB Honors Walnut Trustee Audrey Merves and Former Walnut Employee Len Karabell With Edwin Forrest Award

April 23, 2016

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Walnut Street Theatre is pleased to announce that it will honor Walnut Street Theatre Trustee Audrey Merves and former Walnut Street Theatre Controller Len Karabell with the 2016 Edwin Forrest Award. The evening’s events will begin with a 90-minute concert filled with the sounds of Kander and Ebb, including selections from Chicago, Cabaret and Kiss of the Spider Woman. The one-night-only performance will have Philadelphia favorites take the stage to "Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle" with performances by: Charles Abbott, Sara Brophy, Jennie Eisenhower, Cameron Flurry, Laura Giknis, Lexi Gwynn, Joliet F. Harris, Billy D. Hart, Heidi Hayes, Melissa Joy Hart, Jesse Jones, Liam Keenan, John Charles Kelly, Cambria Klein, Ben Lipitz, Forrest McClendon, Ellie Mooney, Craig Mulhern Jr., Nichalas L. Parker, Owen Pelesh, Lyn Philistine, Fran Prisco, Jenny Lee Stern, Christopher Sutton, Tara Tagliaferro, Denise Whelan and Jacob Wilner.

All proceeds from the Gala benefit the Walnut Street Theatre’s Education and Outreach programming, which has grown to reach over 180,000 students, teachers and families annually in the Delaware Valley.

The Gala Concert, Come Hear the Music Play: An Evening of Kander & Ebb, will take place on Walnut Street Theatre’s Mainstage at 7:00PM on Friday, May 6. Before the concert begins, guests will receive a glass of wine to enjoy during the performance. Following the Gala Concert, a sold-out, swanky speakeasy VIP Party will be held on the Thomas Jefferson University Campus in the Jefferson Alumni Hall Atrium (1020 Locust Street, between 10th and 11th Streets). Tickets for the concert are still available.

This event is held annually to recognize members of the business and artistic communities with the Edwin Forrest Award for their contributions to American Theatre. The award was created in 1990 in honor of the leading American actor of the nineteenth century, Edwin Forrest. Forrest is a Philadelphia native who made his debut at the Walnut in 1820. This year the Walnut celebrates the contributions of a man who dedicated over four decades of his life to the Walnut as Controller, Len Karabell, and Walnut Street Theatre Trustee Audrey Merves.

Len Karabell is a life-long Philadelphia area resident and studied accounting locally at Drexel University. During his co-op work-study semesters, he worked in the auditing department for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. and participated in the Rohm and Haas audit. Through that work he came to the attention of Stewart Hebden, senior vice president of Rohm and Haas, who interviewed him for the Walnut’s job in February, 1973. Len graciously accepted the position and began faithfully entering every financial report manually.

With a passion for numbers, and a love of sports, Len had childhood dreams of becoming a baseball statistician and an announcer at games. He developed a great love for theatre after accepting his position at the Walnut. He is proud to have worked at the theatre during a period of tremendous growth under Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard. He spent countless hours in the building balancing books, running reports, signing checks, and welcoming everyone he came across with a smile. Only unforeseen medical issues could have prevented him from continuing his work.

Len is an extremely proud family man. He and his wife Ginny reside in Havertown, where they raised their two children, Jacob and Laura. He is looking forward to his next adventure, becoming a first-time grandparent! His son Jacob and his daughter-in-law Annie are expecting this fall.

Audrey Merves has been passionate about the theatre since she saw her first Broadway shows, And Then There Were None and Junior Miss, at the age of 10. She graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History of Art in 1956. Following graduation, she moved to Manhattan and became a staff writer for the NBC national TV and radio show Tex and Jinx. The next step in Audrey’s career led her to United Mills Corporation, where she served as the Assistant to President Horace Richter.

In the mid-1960s, Audrey moved to Philadelphia. She was hired to work on the NBC syndicated programs Carlton Fredericks Show as Assistant Producer, and Meet Dr. Beltz as Executive Producer. Audrey served as a substitute teacher, pursued a Master’s in Education at UPenn, and became Temple University’s Director of Volunteer Services. In 1978, Audrey joined the Rosemont company “An Invitation to Travel” and coordinated business and leisure travel until her retirement in 1996.

Audrey continues to dedicate her time and resources to her community. From 1982-1984, she served as the President of Temple Adath Israel Sisterhood in Merion PA. Audrey served as a Trustee of the Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania for 15 years. In the 1990s, she helped develop the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, becoming the organization’s President in 1995. Audrey was also instrumental in guiding the Archives’ move to Temple University’s Urban Center. She remains active with the Temple University Library Systems Advisory Board, Library Board of the Jewish Theological Seminary (New York) and serves on the Board of Directors for the Walnut Street Theatre.

Audrey and her husband Stan are delighted to be celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary in June. In addition to daughters Elizabeth, Amy and Jen, they are proud of their six grandchildren, ranging in age from 4 to 26. Audrey is a fervent believer in the importance of arts experiences for children. She believes that we owe the next generation the opportunity to experience the joy and value of theatre and is especially pleased to support Walnut Street Theatre programs that introduce young people to the power of live theatre.

The Walnut is happy to honor Len and Audrey for their dedication to Walnut Street Theatre.

The Gala Committee Chair is Walnut Trustee Ramona Gwynn (Malvern, PA).