Westphal College of Media Arts & Design professor Brannon Wiles is a producer of a Broadway play called “Sylvia,” starring Tony Award-winners Matthew Broderick, Annaleigh Ashford and Julie White, which recently started a limited run at the Cort Theatre. It’s a comedy about the bond between man and man’s best friend—and the woman who comes between them. Wiles and his co-producers are hoping to harness the box office success of the play’s furry protagonist to shine a spotlight on some animals who could use a leg up.
The show, penned by Pulitzer Prize nominee A.R. Gurney, follows the evolving relationship between Greg (Broderick) and his wife Kate (White) when he is befriended by Sylvia, a stray dog, played by Ashford. Its theme – the struggle of forming connections in an increasingly impersonal world – is as timely now as it was in 1995 when the play debuted off Broadway. It’s one that also strikes a chord with animal lovers, a point not lost on Wiles and his colleagues.
“The show is partnering with a number of animal welfare organizations and offering fundraising opportunities for them,” Wiles recently told the Drexel Newsblog.
One such organization is a Philadelphia-area non-profit called PACT (which stands for People + Animals = Companions Together) that provides long-term emergency foster homes for the pets of local service men and women who are called to serve, or for people who have to be away from home for extended periods of time with a relative receiving treatment at one of the area hospitals. Unlike traditional rescue organizations, the goal is to help both the animals and the people by reuniting them following the service or care.
Wiles, whose family dog, by a stroke of fate or coincidence, happens to be named Sylvia, learned about the organization through his local pet shop in Narberth—whose owner just happens to be the founder of PACT. One thing led to another and Dec. 8 will be “PACT Night” at Sylvia.
In addition to raising awareness of the organization, by running a slide show after curtain call that features some of the pets that have been helped by PACT, a significant amount of the proceeds for that day’s performance will be donated to the organization. PACT supporters will also get a behind-the-scenes chat with the cast members.
“I thought SYLVIA was hysterical when I saw it 20 years ago, and I’m thrilled that it’s now being seen on the ‘Great White Way.’ And because all of the show’s producers and cast members are dog-lovers who understand the positive impact of pets, we have used the opportunity to reach out to bring attention and support to all sorts of animal welfare organizations” Wiles said. “I myself learned about PACT through the show, and no one is doing quite what they are – as a result, I am positive our Sylvia will end up with a number of foster ‘siblings’ in the years to come.”
PACT is one of more than a half dozen animal welfare organizations partnering with the show.
“It’s somewhat fitting that Sylvia is a revival of a show that is now getting a chance on Broadway—and the show itself is reaching out to organization’s whose goal is to give animals who are in a tough situation a chance to be in a loving home,” Wiles said.
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