With a rich generosity of spirit, Bernadette Peters’ devotion to charitable causes is perhaps only outweighed by her much fêted dedication to performing. The revered actress, who appeared on Broadway this season in the Best Musical Revival nominee Follies, has previously been honored with Tony Awards for Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun.
This year, saluting her gift of volunteered time and effort with a number of charitable organizations, Peters will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award. The honor is named for the committed advocate for the arts who led the American Theatre Wing for 33 years.
“I was very touched to be chosen,” says the actress. “It’s a lovely award, and it’s for a lovely reason.” Peters has long been a champion of The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, helping to raise millions for support of health clinics, direct service organizations, food banks, meal delivery programs, housing initiatives, emergency financial assistance, and more. She is also a board member of Standing Tall, which offers innovative programs for children with multiple disabilities, and has worked with the Worldwide Orphans Foundation.
In 1999, Peters proposed a program to raise awareness about and promote adoption of New York City’s shelter animals. Mary Tyler Moore, Peters’ animal-loving best friend, also joined the crusade, and together with BC/EFA they created Broadway Barks.
“We figured out we should do it in Shubert Alley, so we called Gerry Schoenfeld and got permission,” Peters recalls. “That way, all the celebrities could come out between shows, meet their animals and help them get adopted. We’ve been doing this now for 14 years.”
The funds raised at each year’s event go to the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City Animals, which divides the proceeds among participating shelters. Peters continues to promote the cause tirelessly, with special appearances, concerts, and even the publication of two children’s books, Broadway Barks and Stella Is a Star. Each book includes a dog-lullaby CD inspired by Peters’ own dogs—Stella, a pit bull terrier, and Kramer, whom Peters calls, “my Disney dog, my Tramp.”
Peters’ efforts are held in the highest regard on Broadway and beyond. To quote BC/EFA’s Tom Viola, “Bernadette’s boundless compassion and generosity represent the best in all of us.”Revised June 6, 2012