Renowned Charleston artist Jonathan Green and lifelong supporters of The Footlight Players Sam and Nancy Stafford will be honored on Thursday, May 11 at the second annual Anthony Aston Honors Gala.
The Footlight Players handed out the first Anthony Aston Honors award last year to former Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley and Charleston theater veterans Patricia and Emmett Robinson (posthumously). In 2015, The Footlight Players’ board of directors established the Anthony Aston Honors to annual recognize individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the arts or the cultural life of Charleston.
The award is named for Anthony Aston, a British actor, playwright and poet, who landed in Charles Towne in 1702 after being shipwrecked on the Carolina coast near Port Royal. In 1703, Aston wrote and performed “The Country,” thought to be the first play ever produced in America.
Jane Broadwater, executive director, said she commends the Footlight Players board of directors for its hard work putting together such an arts-driven event for Charleston. “Gretta Cape, event chair, works tirelessly all year to make this evening special for all who attend. We look forward to gathering on May 11 to honor those who serve now and those that have served the arts in the past.”
This year’s honorees will be recognized at a black-tie optional gala and dinner at 7 p.m. May 11 at Hibernian Hall, 105 Meeting St. in Charleston.
Tickets are on sale for The Aston Honors Gala at www.footlightplayers.net or by calling the box office at 843-722-7521. Individual tickets are $150 each.
Individual benefactor tickets are $275 each and include a pre-event VIP reception with sponsors, honorees and other distinguished guests.
Proceeds from the event will benefit The Footlight Players in its preservation, education and operations endeavors, which include maintaining a historic theater and producing multiple shows annually.
Now in its 85th season, The Footlight Players was founded in March 1931 by leaders of the Charleston Renaissance, including Alfred Hutty, DuBose Heyward, Selma Tharin Furtwangler Dotterer and Eola Willis. In 1934, the community theater group acquired an old warehouse at 20 Queen St. and converted it to a theater that opened in 1941.
About the Aston Honors recipients
Jonathan Green, born and raised in the Lowcountry, is an international professional artist who graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982. Green is considered by many art critics and reviewers as one of the nation’s most outstanding African-American artists and highly recognized visual master for capturing Southern culture and traditions. His high level of social interest and cultural commitments, and exhibitions have brought him international recognition.
Green has received honorary doctor of art degrees from the University of South Carolina and the Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., for his capturing and recording Southern culture and history. He also has been awarded The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for Lifetime Achievement; Key of Life Award – NAACP Image Awards; Century of Achievement in Art Award, The Museum of Americas, Arlington, Va.; Order of the Palmetto Civilian Award; and The History Makers Award in Fine Arts, The History Makers National Archives, Chicago.
Green’s art has been incorporated into productions of ballet, music, theatre, literature, film, and video documentaries.
Born in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1946, Sam Stafford III moved to South Carolina as a child and attended the College of Charleston, where he met his wife of 47 years, Nancy Webb. Nancy invited him to volunteer with her at The Footlight Players under the tutelage of Emmett Robinson, Footlight’s first managing director. Sam says he treasures those Saturdays with Nancy and remains appreciative of the lessons Emmett taught them about love, life, commitment and theatre.
After graduating from The College and receiving an medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in 1971, Sam embarked on a 20-year naval career, completing residencies in pediatrics and dermatology. He and Nancy returned to Charleston in 1982 where he began a part-time private practice in dermatology. After retiring from the Navy in 1992, Sam joined Mt. Pleasant Dermatology where he has been a partner since 1994.
Sam acted with The Footlight Players from 1967 through 1971 and later served as a member of The Footlight Players board of directors as well as board president. During his tenure, he led the movement to replace the theater seats and donated the red stage curtain as an anniversary present to Nancy in honor of their early memories at the theatre.
Nancy Webb Stafford, a native Charlestonian, has had theatre in her blood since childhood. Her mother served on The Footlight Players board of directors and her parents were long-time friends of Pat and Emmett Robinson, who were synonymous with Charleston theatre for nearly 30 years. Nancy began volunteering at the theatre at the age of 13 and over the next 11 years worked every aspect of technical theater (carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, running spots, costume construction and set dressing) learning from Footlight’s talented staff of Emmett Robinson, Norman Webber and Bill Easterby. During those years, The Footlight Players was responsible for the maintenance of the Dock Street Theater and presented its main season on that stage.
Emmett encouraged Nancy to pursue her interests outside of Charleston, and she spent two summers in summer stock in Hyannis and Boston during college breaks.
She met Sam while a student at the College of Charleston, and three years later, they were married. The couple left Charleston for 12 years of Sam’s training and adventure in the U.S. Navy.
While living in San Francisco, Nancy attended cooking school, and subsequently taught cooking classes and operated a catering business for 19 years. Later, she developed an interest in landscape design, so she attended many classes and symposiums, and eventually friends turned into clients. Nancy now consults and enjoys working in her yards in Charleston and the North Carolina mountains.
Sam and Nancy have two artistically gifted daughters: Adele, a weaver and writer, and Ann Ladson, a metalsmith and jeweler. The couple love to travel and keep up with the local theatre scene through four local theatre groups and occasional trips to New York City.
About The Footlight Players
The Footlight Players launched in 1931 with a series of one-act plays directed by Lt. Commander Charles Russell Price at the Charleston Navy yard. The series was such a success and drew such a following that The Footlight Players formally organized and incorporated in the fall of 1932. To this day, The Footlight Players continues to provide professional quality, affordable community theater for the Lowcountry at the historic Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. in Charleston. For more information, visit footlightplayers.net or call 843-722-4487.