Level Forward, the production entity launched last year by Abigail Disney and Adrienne Becker, is a winner in this year’s Tony Awards derby even before the trophies are handed out on Sunday.
The banner is a co-producer of two high-profile nominees: “What the Constitution Means to Me,” nommed for best play, and “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma,” up for best revival of a musical.
The strong showing for the new entity is a reflection of its focus on material that comes from emerging and diverse voices and projects with the potential to have social impact. The company has vowed to donate 10% of proceeds from its productions to charitable partners that fit with the theme of the work.
For “Oklahoma,” Level Forward is donating funds to Shine MSD, a non-profit started last year by two students from Florida’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the devastating mass shooting in February 2018. Shine MSD founders, Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Pena, will be among Level Forward’s guests at the Tony Awards.
For “Constitution,” support will go to Generation Citizen, a non-profit that offers civics-related educational opportunities with the goal of educating youth on rights and responsibilities.
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Both shows have been on a roll during theater’s award season. Both grabbed Drama Desk noms, while “Constitution” won the Obie Award for best play last month and “Oklahoma” was recognized with a special citation from the Obies.
Level Forward was founded in January 2018 with backing from filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney and other investors. The company, which counts Killer Films among its partners, is developing a range of film, TV, digital and theatrical projects. The connection to “Oklahoma” came through Level Forward’s broader relationship with Broadway producer Eva Price. “Oklahoma” is also part of Level Forward’s gun neutral initiative, which is a pledge to take 10 guns out of circulation for every one gun featured on screen or on stage.
The warm critical reception for “Constitution” and “Oklahoma” is more evidence that there is demand for the kind of work Level Forward aims to produce.
“We’re moving around in unconventional ways, thinking about how the business models that have supported entertainment are changing, to minimize risk and maximize impact,” said Becker, who is CEO of Level Forward. “Working across platforms, working with non-profit collaborators, building groups of properties with thematic cohesion and working with investors who support these shifts are all building blocks of a parallel ecosystem, made possible by the willingness of so many incredible creators, producers, financiers and distributors to join in something different and we think, ultimately more valuable.”
(Pictured: “What the Constitution Means to Me,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma”)