By Annette Hinkle
Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theatre’s executive director who talks about the theater’s Second Annual Honors Benefit this Saturday at East Hampton Point. This year’s event honors David Bray, Ana R. Daniel, Michael Grim and James Osburn.
How did the idea for the Honors Benefit come about?
We knew there were people we wanted to recognize who had been important to Bay Street and the local community at large – including other non-profits. At our summer gala, the biggest fundraiser of the year, it’s a really a hard place to acknowledge people. We do dedicate the gala to certain people, but it’s so big and hard to hear, we thought it would be nice to do a separate event where we can properly talk about people with those who know them well. That’s not something you can do under a tent with 500 people.
This year, you’re hosting the event on the East End rather than in New York City, as was the case last year. Why the change in venues?
Like the Grammies [East Coast/West Coast], we’re going back and forth. When we looked at this group who had done so much for Bay Street for the last 22 years and do so much out here, we realize that unless you’re friends with them or in one of the organizations they’re involved with, you don’t know how many groups these four people help. So it’s not just what they do for Bay Street, which is beyond what anyone can hope for — but when you get to know them you find out they’re doing this for a gazillion organizations out here.
Bay Street has so many stalwart supporters — how do you go about narrowing down the candidates?
If we’re going to do a New York City event, those are different people than out here. We ask ‘Who’s been a part of our Bay Street story for so long?’ God knows there so many, so we look to see who hasn’t been acknowledged in some way. There are a lot of different groups to acknowledge — including people who give money. But some people can be overlooked, and while it does take a lot of money, it also takes a lot of fully dedicated participants.
So give me a quick synopsis of what makes these four honorees special.
These four people have become like family to me. Any of these people, call and ask for help, the answer is always, “Yes.” They do it quietly without thought of recognition.
Ana Daniels was the founding chair of Bay Street’s board. She was board chair for 13 years and she recently returned as interim chair and has been critical in helping to create our matching challenge grant and refocus the board and help us through this year of transition. Beyond that, she was always a patron at every event even when she wasn’t the board chair. Her devotion is unflagging. She’s also on the Pianofest board and helps out at Stony Brook Southampton. She’s involved in everything.
David Bray is also a founding board member and obviously tied into the Sag Harbor community. His late partner, Neal Hartman, was the same way. Not only has David helped us as a board member, but his knowledge of the real estate market has also helped us through the transition process. He also re-dedicated the bell at Christ Episcopal Church in Neal’s memory.
Michael Grimm and Jim Osburn own Bridgehampton Florist. They have been involved in Bay Street since day one. They donate flowers for every gala, every patron’s event in the lobby you can see their beautiful flowers. They also donate time and energy — including at Cormaria — and are devoted patrons and incredibly generous.
What can guests expect at Saturday’s event?
We’ll have cocktails and hors d’oeuvres then move into the buffet dinner. Joy Behar, who’s a board member and was honored last year, will offer a bit of a roast and she’ll introduce a person who has been selected who knows the honorees well. We have Anthony Newman for Ana, Cee Brown for David, and Monte Matthews and Susan Kohner-Weitz for Michael and Jim.
Any idea what they’re going to talk about?
We don’t prescreen what they say…. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Wait…isn’t that Forrest Gump’s Line?
Bay Street Theatre’s Second Annual Honors Benefit is 8 p.m. this Saturday, April 27 at East Hampton Point, 295 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton. The cost is $175 ($300 per couple). To buy tickets, call Jessica at 725-0818.