Syracuse Stage Receives Transformational Gift Honoring Julie … – Syracuse University News

Syracuse Stage received a gift of $1 million from the estate of the late George Wallerstein, honoring his late wife, Julie Haynes Lutz, by establishing the Julie Lutz New Play Development Fund.

This transformational gift launches Syracuse Stage’s 50th-anniversary fundraising campaign, raising $2.5 million to ensure the vitality, innovation and sustainability of Syracuse Stage for the next 50 years.

A gift of $1 million from the estate of the late George Wallerstein honors his late wife, Julie Haynes Lutz, by establishing the Julie Lutz New Play Development Fund.

Lutz was a ground-breaking astronomer and professor who loved traveling, the outdoors, music, food and theatre. She was a champion of the arts and was deeply committed to issues around diversity and inclusion. The Julie Lutz New Play Development Fund recognizes these interests and will specifically support new play activity, developing and producing exciting new work for the theatre.

“This gift marks a leap forward in Syracuse Stage’s continuing commitment to foster and develop relationships with the most exciting artists working in the American theatre today, with a particular focus on sharing stories from underrepresented communities,” says Jill A. Anderson, Syracuse Stage’s managing director. “Dr. Lutz’s love of theatre and commitment to social justice is forever memorialized by this remarkably generous gift.”

The first production under the umbrella of the Julie Lutz New Play Development Fund was the 2023 world premiere of “Tender Rain” by Kyle Bass, Syracuse Stage playwright in residence. Bass’ original work has long been a cornerstone of Syracuse Stage, with shows like “Possessing Harriet” and “salt/city/blues” offering patrons the opportunity to see brand new plays and engage with stories that put their own community front and center.

“New plays and new voices are the lifeblood of a relevant theater,” says Bass. “In this regard, Julie Lutz’s extraordinary gift to Syracuse Stage and the new play development fund it endows will touch artists and audiences beyond our walls. It allows us to develop, launch and grow new and exciting works into the world.”

The transformational nature of the Lutz Fund will continue to support the development of work in the vein of past Stage world premieres, like the 19/20 season production of Keenan Scott II’s “Thoughts of a Colored Man” which later opened at the John Golden Theatre in New York City, the joyful, Broadway-bound musical “How to Dance in Ohio,” and last season’s powerful East Coast premiere of “Espejos: Clean,” directed by associate artistic director Melissa Crespo.

The Julie Lutz New Play Development Fund grew from Lutz’s love of theatre, but also from her affectionate bond with her son-in-law, Bob Hupp, artistic director at Syracuse Stage. Lutz had a particular fondness for new work, which was heightened during the pandemic. At the suggestion of her daughter, Clea Hupp, Lutz experienced the work of Syracuse Stage by streaming productions at her home in Seattle, Washington.

It was during this online-only season, when professional theaters across the nation were shuttered, that the idea of establishing a new works fund was born to help support the playwrights and artists—especially those from communities whose stories are underrepresented in American theatre—who create that new work, now and for years to come.

In addition to supporting new play development and production, Syracuse Stage’s 50th-anniversary campaign prioritizes two primary areas: programming sustainability and capital investments, as well as providing resources for the Stage’s ongoing operational needs post-COVID.

Syracuse Stage seeks to create a permanent Education and Community Engagement Fund, ensuring the continuation of vital programming essential to our community. Capital investments will be used to update equipment and technical tools available to the Stage production teams, including new accessibility, lighting, projection and sound equipment, as well as production communication systems.

“Some of my earliest childhood memories involve my parents getting dressed up to go to Daggy Theater to see a show,” says Lutz’s daughter, Melissa Lutz Blouin. “When we lived in London for a year on sabbatical, she took us to shows in the West End. We went to see plays when we visited her in Seattle. Her love of performance continued throughout her lifetime.”

Julie Haynes Lutz died Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at 77. She was one of the country’s first female astronomers, receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1972. Her research focused on planetary nebulae, gas clouds formed by expiring stars. From 1971-96, she worked at Washington State University, serving first as the planetarium director and later as the Boeing Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Science Education and director of the astronomy program. Lutz chaired the Department of Pure and Applied Mathematics from 1992-96 and was active in improving primary and secondary school science education. She also served as the director of the Division of Astronomical Sciences for the National Science Foundation from 1990-92 and as president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1991-93.

In 2000, she began working at the University of Washington as a NASA educator and was a professor emeritus. She was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, the United Negro College Fund gave Julie and her second husband, George Wallerstein, the President’s Award for their long-term fundraising activities for the organization.

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Lucas Leclerc

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