Scarlett Johansson and The John Gore Organization raised $500,000 toward the relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria with a star-studded benefit reading of Thornton Wilder’s classic play Our Town on November 6 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. The evening featured Tony winner Scarlett Johansson along with her Avengers co-stars: Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr., Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, Tony nominee Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Frank Grillo and Maximiliano Hernandez. The evening was directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon and organized by Johansson and The John Gore Organization.
"We are all deeply touched by the outpouring of generosity and support from the local community," Johansson said. "We knew we could count on you, Atlanta!" John Gore, Chairman and CEO of the John Gore Organization, added, "We couldn’t be happier to support our friend, Scarlett, and her co-stars in producing this evening for such a worthy cause."
The event played to a full house and a very enthusiastic crowd. With more than 3,500 tickets sold, it was one of the largest audiences the play has ever been presented to in one night. Johansson was joined on stage for opening remarks by director Leon and Xiomara Caro, Director of New Organizing Projects for the Center of Popular Democracy and coordinator for The Maria Fund, sharing an inspiring message about the purpose of the event and the relief effort. They brought the crowd to their feet when they revealed that the evening’s efforts resulted in half of a million dollars raised to help Puerto Rico in their hour of need.
"We are deeply grateful to Scarlett Johansson, Kenny Leon and everyone involved in the production of this play for stepping up and contributing their talent to help towards the equitable and just rebuilding of Puerto Rico. This event demonstrates the importance of collective solidarity and responsibility and how powerful it is when we come together to help our communities,” said Caro. “A month after Hurricane Maria, millions are without power, or regular access to clean water and food. But there are also hundreds of grassroots organizations and community-run initiatives that are building community everyday to provide relief and organize a short and long-term response to all of these issues. This is the kind of initiatives Maria Fund is supporting,” Caro added.
The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund is housed at the Center for Popular Democracy and funds will be used to support immediate relief, recovery and equitable rebuilding in Puerto Rico for low-income communities of color hit hardest by the storm. The fund will support organizations working on the frontlines with these communities.
The John Gore Organization is the leading developer, producer, distributor and marketer of Broadway theater worldwide. Under the leadership of 11-time Tony-winning producer and owner John Gore, its family of companies includes Broadway Across America, Broadway.com, The Broadway Channel, BroadwayBox.com and Group Sales Box Office. Its productions span Broadway, off-Broadway, London's West End, Japan, Canada and 44 domestic markets. The company has won Tonys in every producing category as well as numerous other Drama League, Drama Desk and Olivier awards.
Inside the Avengers Cast’s One-Night-Only Performance of Our Town
Scarlett Johansson conscripted her fellow superheroes for an Atlanta event to support hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.
by CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL NOVEMBER 7, 2017 1:42 PM
The Avengers, and friends, assembled in Atlanta on Monday night, though without their usual armor, shields, and superpowers. The event, dreamed up by Scarlett Johansson, brought together some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest stars—all in town filming Avengers: Infinity War at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios—for a staged reading of Thornton Wilder’s theater classic Our Town, a benefit for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.
As he is on screen as Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. was front and center as the play’s Stage Manager, serving as the audience’s guide to the world of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, in the early 20th century. It was Johansson, though, who introduced the evening, having come up with the idea for the reading in partnership with the John Gore Organization, recruited her co-stars, and persuaded Disney to foot the bill for the minimal set design. “Our Town is almost this kind of warrior cry to remind us of the fragility of life,” Johansson told the crowd. “It reminds us to be present and to live moment to moment with one another and to look at each other, to really see one another. It’s about community, helping other people, being compassionate, reaching across lines to lift somebody out of a tragic situation. It’s all about human connectivity, and theater is all about human connectivity.”
As the play began, the cast, who have been making movies together for nearly a decade now, seemed committed to a straight reading. The antics began quickly, though, with Chris Evans, who played Mr. Webb, the father to Johansson’s Emily. When Evans missed a cue and had to be prompted by the rest of the company, it turned out he was missing page 12 of his script. “As the Stage Manager, I couldn’t have had anything to do with that,” quipped Downey Jr., calling to mind the rivalry of Iron Man and Captain America in the Marvel movies.
There was another dueling dynamic between Jeremy Renner (a.k.a. Hawkeye), reading as young George Gibbs, and Mark Ruffalo (a.k.a. Hulk), as his father, Dr. Gibbs. When asked for his age, Renner answered as scripted, “I’m 16, almost 17,” then mockingly added an impromptu address of “Dad!” to stress the absurdity of a man not knowing how old his son is. Renner then made faces whenever Ruffalo had something to say about George. He also commented on his own character’s line about watching Emily through her window at night, joking, “There’s nothing creepy about that.”
Other dated bits of dialogue from Our Town elicited chuckles from the crowd. If there were many Thornton Wilder fanboys in attendance, they weren’t as evident as the Marvel faithful with their Captain America shield T-shirts and, in at least one case, Iron Man armor.
Future Black Panther standout Danai Gurira received individual cheers for her more sincerely expressive performance as George’s mother. The other M.C.U. players included Frank Grillo and Maximiliano Hernandez, who respectively portray the villain Crossbones and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent Sitwell in the franchise. There were a handful of non-Marvel cast members too, including local Atlanta actress Tess Malis Kincaid, who earned a number of laughs while reading the part of Mrs. Webb.
Renner continued to provide most of the night’s improvisation, regularly ad-libbing and gesturing for the amusement of the audience. He even blurted out “shit” at one point, and during the wedding scene in Act II, when George is asked if he takes Emily to be his bride, he shouted, “Hell yes!” In another moment, when Evans as Mr. Webb asked George how he was doing, Renner replied, teasingly, “Fine, fine, fine . . . I have page 12.”
George’s part is dialogue-free in the third act, so Renner’s clowning ceased as Johansson took the play into its sentimental conclusion. She appeared to cry her way through Emily’s famous posthumous monologue about the under-appreciated beauty of the world, giving what was truly one of her best performances in years. Those final moments, concluded with Downey Jr.’s final narration, brought a sober reminder of why everyone was there: to provide aid to people affected by a disaster.
The event, which included a post-reading meet-and-greet with the cast, raised $500,000 for the Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund at the Center for Popular Democracy.