The Westport Country Playhouse — which already includes the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center, and the Sheffer studio space — is adding another name to its property.
In fact, the entire campus will now be called The Howard J. Aibel Theater Center at Westport Country Playhouse.
The change recognizes a $3 million gift from the local resident, and current vice chair of the board of trustees.
“I have found live theater to be life transformative,” Aibel — a retired attorney, who formerly served as chief legal officer of ITT Corporation — says.
“Being a supporter of the Westport Country Playhouse has been a rich and grand experience.”
Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos says, “This is not only financial sustenance. It is spiritual sustainability. His belief now enables us to create the highest level of work.”
Of Aibel’s grant, $500,000 is designated for current operations, and $500,000 for working capital reserve. A bequest of $2 million to establish an endowment is held in an irrevocable trust.
Aibel retired as a partner of Dewey & LeBoeuf, where he focused on international dispute resolution. He served as president of the Harvard Law School Association of New York, and chair of the American Arbitration Association. He is also chair emeritus of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/NY.
I’m not sure how many people will actually refer to the Playhouse as the Howard Aibel Theatre Center.
But there will be a nice sign on the 87-year-old iconic red building to remind everyone that while the arts are important to Westport’s heritage, they need the financial support of people like Aibel, who have the means — and desire — to help keep them alive.