Philadelphia Theatre Company is more than just a creative powerhouse, having produced the great American theatre artists for nearly five decades. Today, their home—the Suzanne Roberts Theatre—is a hub of activity for the Philadelphia business community, thanks to a new leader who is working to position Philadelphia Theatre Company as the connector between culture and commerce in the city.
When Producing Artistic Director Paige Price arrived in 2017, she launched Play Brawl, a fundraiser unlike any other. “Play Brawl captures the competitive spirit of Philadelphia while connecting community leaders to the experience of our artists. We saw how much the business community loved using our space for events, and thought: How can we bring them even closer to the live theatre that is at the heart of what we do?”
Play Brawl is Price’s answer to that question. “We pair local executives with professional actors, and these teams battle it out on stage. Picture So You Think You Can Dance, but re-enacting the most iconic film scenes of all time.” Audiences ‘vote’ with their donations until a winner is crowned.
Price sees the event as more than a way to raise money to support the theatre’s artistic endeavors. For her, it’s about positioning theatre as the quintessential art form of our time. “The skills it takes to get on stage are the same skills that make for success in a board meeting. Perfecting your delivery. Reading a room. Hitting your beats.” Beyond that, Price points to the fact that, in the age of streaming, theatres are one of the last public spaces where people are encouraged to disconnect and share a live experience with a room full of strangers. “It’s magical,” Price says, “and our goal is to bring the business community as close as possible to that magic.”
The gamble seems to be paying off. Previous Play Brawl “Champs” include David L. Cohen (A Few Good Men) and the team of Marc Brownstein and Joe Zarrett (Rocky), and as the event heads towards its third outing, Chamber President and CEO Rob Wonderling has thrown his hat in the ring as one of this year’s Contenders. The jury is still out on what scene Wonderling will perform, but Price is confident that all the business leaders in this year’s competition are up to the challenge. Citing the work they do to fuel the economic engine in Philadelphia, Price says with a grin, “All the world’s a stage, right?”