In The Round: March 2020
In the Round with Arena Stage Trustee and Gala Chair Daniel (Danny) L. Korengold
Danny tells his story and why he supports Arena Stage.
In the Round with Arena Stage Trustee Hubert (Hank) Schlosberg
Hank talks about his favorite memories at Arena Stage (with special guest Mimi).
Danny Korengold’s Goal: Raising as Much as Possible at 70th Anniversary Gala
"[Supporting local organizations] is not about tooting your own horn. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s about knowing your support makes this community more vibrant for all of its residents.”
Written by Janice L. Kaplan
Danny Korengold, who is co-chair of Arena’s development committee and chair of this year’s Gala, knows a thing or two about nonprofit fundraising. As a much sought-after board member, Danny says at one time he was “on more than six boards and 25 committees – all while running a business with six locations and raising four children.”
Today, his children are launched, he is focused on his work as President of Ourisman Automotive of Virginia and he has scaled back his board work. Yet Arena Stage and its Gala remain a top priority. “My goal is to raise as much money as possible this year,” he says adding, “I also hope everyone will have a lot of fun.”
How can they not? The May 13 event features a performance by Tony and Grammy Award-winning actress Heather Headley, who starred on Broadway in The Lion King and The Color Purple and received a Tony Award for Aida. It also honors Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security with the fifth annual Beth Newburger Schwartz Award in recognition of Verveer’s efforts for women’s rights and her continual support of the arts. The 70th Anniversary Gala will be held at The Anthem on the Southwest waterfront, a new location which Danny says will appeal to young patrons and attract guests who have not yet checked out the venue’s beautiful architecture and sweeping spaces.
“I so admire Danny’s can-do approach to business and life,” said Arena’s Chief Development Officer Jon K. Gossett, ACFRE. “He’s not only a successful businessperson and admired philanthropist, but also an innovator and long-term thinker.”
Arena is a natural fit for Danny. His mother – who, he says, “was very dramatic around the house,” performed in productions at the Inverness Playhouse in Bethesda and took Danny to the theater in D.C. and New York from an early age – served on Arena’s board. The first play that made an impression on Danny was The Sound of Music, which he saw on Broadway. (He dreamt about the actress who played Louisa for weeks afterward.) Back in Washington, he saw Arena’s 1967 production of The Great White Hope, which tells the story of Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight champion. That play about the racism and social inequality faced by the great boxer made a lasting impression on Danny, a lifelong sports fan.
In his early days as an Arena board member, Danny enjoyed attending performances and socializing with other board members and donors. Over time, his commitment evolved into “a much richer and more meaningful experience,” he says, adding that he is inspired by the leadership and vision of Arena’s new board chair, Decker Anstrom. “This is a real working board with members who are here because they are passionate about Arena Stage,” he says.
“Arena is unique,” he continues. I’m not an outwardly emotional person, yet I’ve been moved over and over by Arena’s plays in powerful ways.”
Quoting Ken Ludwig, the playwright of Arena’s recent production, Dear Jack, Dear Louise, Danny says, “The arts make a difference in how we see the world, how we conduct our lives and how we treat our neighbors. That was true with Dear Evan Hansen, it was true with Disgraced, All The Way, Right to Be Forgotten and Jubilee,” he says, rattling off a long list of recent Arena productions.
Whenever he attends a performance, Danny says he hears Artistic Director Molly Smith’s voice in his head asking, “What did you learn from the play?” In fact, the theater’s educational mission and its commitment to nurturing actors, playwrights, choreographers and other professionals is another reason he supports Arena.
He is thinking of Arena’s Resident Artist Program, which provides space and funding for leading American artists to create new work, explore new artistic ideas and share their knowledge and expertise with the community. He’s also thinking of Camp Arena Stage and of Voices of Now, an innovative program in which participants create collaboratively written theater pieces that pose challenging social questions relevant to the artists and their communities. “Whether you have a love of sports or other interests, or are contemplating a career in the arts, these are programs that help young people become more well-rounded adults” – a quality Danny says has served him well in business.
Successful businessman, generous philanthropist, engaged resident of the Washington region, Danny says supporting local organizations such as Arena Stage “is not about tooting your own horn. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s about knowing your support makes this community more vibrant for all of its residents.”
Two Board Members with a Single Passion: Drama
"You’re not a product of your environment, you’re a product of your imagination.”
Written by Janice L. Kaplan
“One day, you’re going to be on the Arena Stage board with me.”
With these words, Hubert (Hank) Schlosberg predicted in 2006 that the brilliant young woman who had just arrived to work in his law office would put her intellect and passion to good use at Arena.
For Nneka Ukpai, joining a nonprofit board was the furthest thing from her mind. She was a Howard University undergrad focused on her studies and career.
Some people know from an early age what they were destined to do. Nneka, who watched Perry Mason and Matlock growing up, was in a pre-law program – in middle school! – and began participating in trial advocacy competitions in sixth grade. For her 12th birthday, her parents bought her Black’s Law Dictionary. After completing the pre-law program at Ft. Lauderdale High School, she arrived at Howard on a special talent scholarship. She was 20 when Hank hired her to help in his law office.
“We hit it off from the start,” she says, pointing out their shared passion for trial practice. In the office, she was given the opportunity to do everything “from filing notices of appearance to preparing for jury trials. It was exciting to get real world experience and understand the rigors of day-to-day practice before going to law school.”
One thing Nneka observed about her boss: “He had the same level of passion and intensity for his Arena Stage board work as he did for his law practice. Attorneys deal with a lot of serious, heavy matters,” she adds. “It’s so important to have balance in your life, some kind of outlet outside of work.” For Hank that outlet is Arena.
“I have a yen for the exciting,” says Hank. “That’s what the law does, what jury trials do. It’s also what the theater does. I love the suspense. With both the law and the theater, you don’t know what’s going to happen until it’s over.”
Hank quickly became Nneka’s biggest fan. “He told me how smart I was, how good I was at picking up new concepts and running with them. He told me the sky was the limit and I could go to any law school,” she says.
He was right. At Harvard Law School, she was the only student to be selected three years in a row for the trial advocacy team, which won three national championships. Today, as an associate with the law firm Paul Hastings, she is focused on internal investigations, anti-bribery, anti-corruption, financial fraud and general commercial litigation. Each year, she returns to Harvard to teach a trial advocacy workshop.
Over the years, Nneka has remained in close contact with her mentor. “One theme we kept coming back to was Arena,” she says. “Hank knew I shared his views on the parallels between theater and the courtroom.” She also shares his belief in Arena’s community engagement role. “Access, opportunity and exposure are critical aspects of Arena’s work,” she points out, adding that the theater gives many children experiences they may never have imagined were possible, from acting to writing to sewing costumes. “When I mentor young children, I like to say, ‘You’re not a product of your environment, you’re a product of your imagination.’”
At Hank’s suggestion, in 2017 Nneka joined him on Arena’s board.
Both Nneka and Hank have theater in their backgrounds. Nneka attended North Andrews Gardens Elementary School of the Performing Arts where she participated in drama and dance. Hank’s dad was a teen usher at the National Theatre around the corner from his home. A fifth generation Washingtonian, Hank grew up attending performances there.
In addition to her work with Arena, Nneka, 35, founded a nonprofit called the Black Big Law Pipeline, which equips black junior attorneys with the skills they need to succeed in private practice. When not at his law office or at Arena, Hank is a sports enthusiast and longtime tennis player. (When asked his age, Hank pauses, then responds mischievously: “Let’s just say when the Senators won the World Series, I was two years old.”)
He also enjoys the companionship of a diverse community of board members and staff he has met through Arena. One important aspect of his board work, he says, is helping people in the community understand the value of supporting arts organizations. “Without contributions from the public, Arena wouldn’t be here,” he says adding, “It’s the responsibility of all of us to give what we can.”
But he is quick to point out that his greatest accomplishment as a board member may be, “introducing Arena to Nneka.”
In turn, Nneka is grateful to Hank for the chance to develop new skills. “Being on the board gives someone like me invaluable experience with corporate governance,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to assist with very complex business issues that don’t come up in my law practice.”
Nneka also was instrumental in bringing to life immediate past Chair Judith Batty’s vision for an Arena Stage Young Patron’s Advisory Board, working closely with a committee of board members dedicated to building a diverse pipeline of leadership and expanding Arena’s audience to young patrons. The inaugural Young Patrons Board was constituted last year. Nneka serves as the liaison between the Governing Board and the Young Patrons Board.
“Arena is a leader in every sense of the word, with its thumb on the pulse of this nation,” Nneka says. “It’s almost as if [Artistic Director] Molly Smith has a crystal ball. She finalizes each season well in advance, yet her selections are always timely. Consider Roe, The Originalist and Native Gardens. It’s important to ensure these kinds of stories continue into the future.”