Thespians Go Hollywood

More than $200,000 Raised in Memory of Craig Zadan

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron Honored with Theatre for Life Award at Thespians Go Hollywood Benefit for the Educational Theatre Foundation

(Los Angeles, CA, November 11, 2018) The late, legendary producer Craig Zadan, and his producing partner, Neil Meron, were honored as the inaugural recipients of the Theatre for Life Award by the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) for the imaginative transformation of live theatre in film, television, and associated media.

Zadan and Meron were lauded for setting the standard for musical theatre on television and in films, bringing it to a national audience of young people everywhere.  It was presented at  Thespians Go Hollywood,  the annual benefit in Los Angeles that supports theatre education programs for schools in need by bringing together film, theatre, and TV professionals, and current high school students. Donations in Zadan’s memory continue to be accepted by ETF’s Craig Zadan Memorial Fund.

Presenting the Theatre for Life Award actress Renée Zellweger said, “Craig was a selfless friend, a man of great character, an advocate for what is right and true, and a great story teller. Craig and Neil’s work has shaped history and changed lives.”

In accepting the award Meron said, “I know Craig treasured the knowledge that NBC’s live musicals were family-viewing affairs in many households. To receive an award that celebrates the joy we were able to share with others through musical theatre is deeply meaningful to me. Thank you.”

Elwood Hopkins, Zadan’s life partner, shared, “Sometimes he saw the entire unfoldment of his life to be about spreading the theatrical experience to ever more people across age, race, income, and geography.”

Among others sharing personal remembrances at the invitation-only event were: Kristin Chenoweth (“‘Til There Was You”), and duet with Sean Hayes (“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”), Harry Connick, Jr. (“When I Get My Name in Lights”), Darren Criss (“I Believe in You”), Robert Greenblatt (Tribute), Megan Hilty (“Don’t Forgt Me/Let Me Be Your Star”), Jennifer Hudson (“I Know Where I’ve Been”), Kenny Leon (tribute), Audra McDonald (“Climb Every Mountain”), Debra Messing (Tribute), Bernadette Peters (“With So Little To Be Sure Of”), Amber Riley (“Home”), John Stamos (Tribute), Nia Vardalos (Tribute and reading of letter from Bette Midler), and Renée Zellweger (tribute). Tributes were also made via video by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and John Travolta.

In addition to the stars participating in the tribute, as is traditional for the Thespians Go Hollywood event, area students who are members of the International Thespian Society (ITS), were also tapped to perform “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray. ITS is the honor society for middle and high school theatre students, which has inducted more than 2.3 million members into Thespian troupes since its founding in 1929.

On behalf of the Educational Theatre Foundation, President Julie Cohen Theobald said,
“The Educational Theatre Foundation’s mission is that every child has access to theatre in their school. Craig and Neil are the ideal recipients to honor for their dedication to bringing theatre to as many people as possible.“

A long-time friend of Zadan, Robert Greenblatt, said, “We are bereft at his passing. But it was his incredible passion for life and musical theatre that have become his legacy and what we will remember always. Craig and I were in total agreement about the fact that young people should be exposed to theatre as much as possible. It’s a vital part of our culture and all people should grow up with it and be given the chance to participate in it.”

For more information see photos and national news stories.

See more of Thespians Go Hollywood 2017!

Thank you to all who came out to support theatre education for underserved schools and thank you to our Thespian stars who made the event a success!


Thespians Go Hollywood, a collaborative effort by talented film, theatre, and TV professionals and California Thespian student performers, benefits theatre education for underserved schools.

Chaired by Krista Carson Elhai, President of the California Educational Theatre Association, hosted by Hunter Bell ([title of show]), directed by Daniel Smith (director/choreographer with 3D Theatricals), and with musical direction by Todd Schroeder (LA Stage Alliance Ovation award winner for Best Musical Direction), Thespians Go Hollywood returned for its second year!

This unforgettable night featured performances by Barrett Foa, Sam Harris, Sharon Lawrence, Lesley McKinnell, Loren Smith, Alex Wyse, and California Thespians, interviews by Carolina Garcia and KC Wilkerson, and a special guest presentation from NBC Entertainment Chairman, Robert Greenblatt.

For information on sponsoring the 2018 event, contact Marion Combs at (513) 977-5539.

Past performers

  • Star of the film Hairspray, Marissa Jaret Winokur
  • Recording artist Shoshana Bean from Broadway’s Wicked and Hairspray
  • Honorary Thespian Barrett Foa of NCIS: Los Angeles
  • Grammy nominee Cheyenne Jackson
  • Tony winner and Grammy nominee Steve Kazee
  • Sharon Lawrence of Rizzoli & Isles and NYPD: Blue
  • Student members of California Thespians
  • Tony nominated Broadway star and TV star Sam Harris
  • ITS alum from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder Lesley McKinnell
  • ITS alum Carolina Garcia, manager of original programming at Netflix
  • ITS alum KC Wilkerson, senior lighting designer at Disney Parks and Resorts

Thank to our 2017 Thespians Go Hollywood patrons and sponsors!