On November 7, more than 150 theater artists and patrons attended the 2011 Castillo Theatre Gala Benefit at the All Stars Project’s performing arts and development center, 543 W. 42nd St. The gala, which raised a record $77,000 for Castillo and its youth theater training program Youth Onstage! paid tribute to four influential women of the theater: Carmen de Lavallade, Gabrielle L. Kurlander, Judith Malina and Daphne Rubin-Vega.

Presenting the women with the awards was a team of distinguished theater colleagues. Emily Mann, artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, presented to Rubin-Vega, whom Mann is directing in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” opening next season on Broadway. Obie Award winner George Bartenieff, co-founder of both Theater for the New City and Theater Three Collaborative, presented the award to Judith Malina, the co-founder and artistic director of the Living Theatre; Amadea Edwards, the executive director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, awarded Carmen de Lavallade, whose career in dance, theater and film spans six decades. Gabrielle L. Kurlander, the president and CEO of the All Stars Project, Inc. who has appeared frequently on Castillo’s stage and who is a member of the theater’s directing team, was honored by the AUDELCO Award-winning cast of her most recent Castillo production, “Playing with Heiner Muller.” Desmond Richardson, co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, who could not attend, sent a video message to Kurlander, with whom he has collaborated on a number of Castillo productions, congratulating her and the other awardees.

Also on hand for the festivities were Malcolm Purkey, artistic director of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa; Peter Nsubuga, the founder of Hope for Youth Uganda; David Mandelbaum, artistic director of the New Yiddish Repertory Theatre; and Romanian/Israeli director Moshe Yassur. Woodie King, Jr., the producing director of the New Federal Theatre, spoke in praise of Youth Onstage!

Castillo’s artistic director Dan Friedman and managing director Diane Stiles began the evening by reading some notes of condolence received from the theater community on the occasion of the passing of Fred Newman this past July. Newman served as Castillo’s artistic director and playwright-in-residence for 16 years, and was instrumental in preserving and developing political theater over the last three decades. Notes were read from Richard Schechner, Robert Wilson and Bill T. Jones.

The Castillo Gala was hosted by Cathy Rose Salit, CEO of Performance of a Lifetime, a theater-based executive training firm and long-time Castillo company member, and Alvaader Frazier, poet, attorney, activist and longtime Castillo supporter.

The Castillo Theatre, a project of the All Stars Project, has been built upon the principles of culture as a tool for growth and change, innovation and independence, an investment in the creative process and community-building. For three decades the Castillo Theatre has produced experimental, socially engaged theater, and like the honorees is dedicated not only to making great theater, but building a better world. Since 1983, Castillo has staged well over 100 productions-from multicultural and avant-garde plays, to musicals and improvisational shows.