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Performing Arts

U-M Regent Andrea Fischer Newman and Frank Newman make $1M gift in support of theater

By Marilou Carlin

Micheal Daughetry

ANN ARBOR—Regent Andrea Fischer Newman and her husband Frank Newman have made a gift of $1 million to support three critical areas within the Department of Theatre & Drama at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

The tripartite gift provides holistic support by funding scholarships, a facility upgrade, and the “senior theater showcase,” which introduces graduating actors to theater professionals in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman

“This gift from Regent Newman and Frank Newman is extraordinarily generous, and also wonderfully strategic,” said SMTD Dean Aaron Dworkin. “It effectively supports the life cycle of theater students at Michigan: scholarships that help us recruit exceptional students, regardless of means; facilities that contribute to dynamic training opportunities while enrolled; and introductions to industry professionals that will help launch careers. We are so grateful for the Newmans’ support of our theater program, which will have a tremendous impact on students for generations to come.”

The new gift designates $200,000 to establish the Regent Andrea Fischer Newman and Frank Newman Theatre Scholarship Fund, an endowed fund that will provide need-based scholarships to theater students, helping SMTD to compete for the nation’s most talented young artists in all areas of theater studies. The donation qualifies for the university’s Bicentennial Opportunity Matching Initiative, which matches $1 for every $2 made by donors, thus ensuring an additional $100,000 for the Newman Scholarship Fund.

The second part of the gift will dedicate $300,000 to upgrade one of the most-used facilities at the Walgreen Drama Center, currently known as Studio One. The student-run Basement Arts is headquartered in this space, which is also home to SMTD theater rehearsals, acting and movement classes, guest artist visits, stage combat classes and more. The space is critical to the professional development of student actors, directors, designers and stage managers, preparing them for their professional lives.

Additionally, as a black-box theater, it brings in audiences from across the university and Ann Arbor communities. The 10-year-old facility will receive upgrades to the lighting, sound system, scrims, drops, curtains, floor and storage facilities. In addition, the stadium seating and walls will be repaired. In honor of the gift, the space will be renamed the Newman Studio.

The remaining portion of the gift, $500,000, will support the Regent Andrea Fischer Newman and Frank Newman Endowed Fund for Theatre Showcase. The practice of bringing graduating acting majors to the country’s top entertainment capitals (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles) to perform for agents, producers and casting directors has become a standard ritual at the nation’s top theater programs.

It offers the best opportunity for young artists to be introduced to industry professionals, offering an excellent way to launch their careers by securing management contracts and auditions. The Newman Fund for Theatre Showcase will help to ensure the future of showcases in all three cities annually.

“Showcases are the best platform we can provide our students to help introduce them to the professional world,” said Priscilla Lindsay, chair of the U-M Department of Theatre & Drama. “We are so grateful to Regent Newman and Frank Newman for their support of this critically important effort. The transition from college to career can be a challenge, and the showcases offer a bridge that is invaluable in making that leap successful.”

Andrea and Frank Newman have made a number of important gifts to U-M over the years, totaling nearly $250,000 to date. Regent Newman, who received her bachelor’s degree from U-M in 1979 and a law degree from George Washington University, is a senior vice president at Delta Air Lines. Frank Newman recently retired from his position as president and chief executive officer of the Stow Company Inc., a leader in custom home storage and organizational products.

The Newmans’ gift supports SMTD in the universitywide Victors for Michigan campaign. SMTD seeks to raise $90 million, which includes $45 million for scholarship support and $10 million for faculty support. As of Oct. 31, 2016, the school has raised $84 million, or 93 percent of the goal, with more than two years left in the campaign.

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