'Superior Donuts' and young celebs sweeten 'Gifted Day at the Geffen'
With the seamy side of celebrity news sending a message that it's smart to act stupid, actors from "That's So Raven," "Wizards of Waverly Place," "Greek" and "The Troop" went against the grain at the Geffen Playhouse last week to show that being bright had its own rewards.
Among those rewards? Gift bags, gourmet pizza for lunch and a special performance of "Superior Donuts" on the Geffen stage -- plus no school for the day. (Sounds a little like Hollywood's awards season, right?)
Orlando Brown of "Raven," Jennifer Stone of "Wizards," "Greek" stars Jacob Zachar and Gregory Michael, and John Marshall Jones of "The Troop" were but one draw for "Gifted Day at the Geffen," an inaugural, invitation-only day of theater education enjoyed by 250 L.A. middle-school students.
"Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the theater, and I wanted to introduce students to a world they may not know much about," said host Cynthia Stafford, a philanthropist and liaison to the Geffen's education department.
The program, in conjunction with the mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, "honored L.A. students for their hard work in school and, hopefully, added to their already existing drive," she said.
Ahead of time, each student (they came from Hollenbeck, Carver, Markham, Stevenson and Gompers middle schools) workshopped a one-page autobiographical story about an event that changed how they saw the world, themselves or their community -- knowing that their story might be read from the stage during the June 15 event. After a performance of "Superior Donuts," lead actor Edi Gathegi did the honors, reading the chosen piece, and the TV actors each shared an inspirational story of their own as part of a panel discussion. (Offstage, Stafford and the Geffen Playhouse’s education department had read and written responses to all stories submitted.)
And hey, did we mention the snacks and the gift bags? Yes we did!
"Wizards" actress Stone, for one, appeared to have given it all at the Geffen. "I am so tired, I feel like someone slipped me a whole bottle of Nyquil," she tweeted a little after 10 p.m.
Hey, Jennifer -- culture is hard work!
-- Christie D'Zurilla
Photos: At top, Cynthia Stafford, standing, and Jennifer Stone, left, Jacob Zachar, Gregory Michael, John Marshall Jones, Orlando Brown, Geffen education director Debra Pasquerette and Stafford associate Lanre Idewu participate in Gifted Day at the Geffen. Credit: Geffen Playhouse. Bottom, middle school students go for the good stuff. Credit: Geffen Playhouse