Dedicated Donors: Wedding Series

Adrienne WeddingWe love when our donors are as creative as our students! Over the past year, some of our dedicated donors have given to YPT through their weddings. We are grateful for their generosity and their commitment to arts education, so we wanted to talk a bit more to them about their relationship with YPT as well as the big day! This month, we are talking to Adrienne Nelson and Ian Armstrong, who decided to ask for charitable donations as wedding gifts.

First, congratulations! Can you tell us a little about your wedding? Where was it held?
Thank you! Ian and I got married and celebrated in Georgetown at the Four Seasons. We were grateful to share this important moment locally as Ian has lived in DC for much of his life and I have called DC home since 1995. It was also a beautiful gift to have Rev. Campbell Gillon officiate the wedding — and entertain and inspire everyone in the room! Ian’s late father, Bill Armstrong, helped bring Campbell from Scotland to Georgetown Presbyterian over thirty years ago and I met Campbell when he officiated Ian’s mother’s (Louise Schaffner Armstrong’s) memorial service eight years ago. It was then where he hinted about ‘seeing us again shortly’ for a different sort of celebration of life.  Having him at the heart of the wedding was like having Ian’s family back in the room celebrating and blessing the day. We were also so thankful to be able to include and celebrate so many dear friends from our DC theatre community who shared their talents through their thoughtful, funny, and inspiring toasts, introductions, readings, opera, and performances. We will always treasure and be grateful for this unforgettable celebration!

What was one memorable moment from the day?
One of our favorite moments was when Rachel Beauregard (who is a dear friend and has performed with both of us in separate productions) sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand” during the wedding ceremony. She has the voice and heart of an angel but also a delicious sense of humor and whimsy. When she couldn’t quite reach the mic, she charmingly, without missing a BEAT, whipped off her heels and sang the rest barefoot and inspired a beautiful bonding moment through laughter and song with everybody in the room.

Our Scottish minister, Campbell Gillon also provided some much loved and welcomed heart, HUMOR,  soul and poetry to everyone at the wedding. It was especially powerful to have him involved as Ian’s late father, Willis Coburn Armstrong, helped bring him over to Georgetown Presbyterian 50 years ago and Campbell also delivered the eulogy at Ian’s mother’s, Louise Armstrong’s,  memorial a few years ago. Having him officiate was like having Ian’s parents in the room. One of our favorite lines was when he shared, in between the Shakespeare, the gospel, the family stories and the hilarious cautionary tales, a bit of advice for all couples in the room: “Mean what you say. Say what you mean. And don’t say what you don’t mean.” All with that delectable and infectious Scottish dialect!

A final favorite moment was when the opera singer Patricia Portillo sang “Habanera” from “Carmen.” I had requested she sing this though I had no idea that our friend/a guest at the wedding,  Andreu Honeycutt, was going to jump in to sing some of the other parts! She enchanted the whole room as she pranced around the room and enchanted us all with her magnificent voice and Andreu’s humorous interjections were the penultimate icing. It was an unforgettable moment for everyone in the room.

Adrienne & Ian Honeymoon

How did you two meet?
Ian and I met when he was taking press photographs for a play I was in — “Green Stockings” by Kobe Abe with Tsunami Theatre. I did not welcome the suggestions my match-making producer was injecting to try to get us together as Ian was QUITE bossy during the photo shoot. Though I perked up when I met him later at the Helen Hayes Awards when he shared how much he enjoyed my performance…and shoes. Bonus points for mentioning he brought his mother to the show. Oh, and his photographs were stunning so the bossiness was forgiven as well.

We connected again at a production of “Laughing Wild” he was producing for Open Circle Theatre. It was then that we got to chatting about performances and I asked if I might have seen him in anything. He asked if I had seen “Antony and Cleopatra”. I had and, although I saw it with an ex-boyfriend, I recalled being seriously moved by the man playing Antony. I said, “Uh…yes, who did YOU play?” And when he said “Antony” I nearly lost it. I hadn’t put it together that this beach bum in front of me — it was at Playbill in the summer so dress code was very cazh — was the same sexy Roman General that had stopped me in my tracks many months earlier. To make a long story relatively shorter, we both asked friends about each other to begin the light vetting and luckily and coincidentally asked some of the same mutual friends (Cam Magee and Delia Taylor). Both women raved about each of us and we soon after went on our first proper date to “Shakespeare and Sonnets” at the Arts Club.

I sat with his mother and listened to him share some gorgeous Shakespeare over wine and laughter overlooking the gardens. And although he ditched me with his mom and the other octogenarians (who I fell in love with by the end of the dinner) to hang out with the other actors at a rowdier table, we soon after reconnected and shared our first kiss in a very romantic rainstorm. Bonus, I got to know his fabulous and fascinating mother. Even if it would have ended up being our first and last date I would have had a whole new group of friends!

You had such a creative giving idea. Can you tell us how you decided to designate YPT to receive donations as a wedding gift option?
Since Ian and I had lived together for over eight years and already had collected and inherited way too many things that make up a home, we decided not to go the registry route. We also were not the youngest bride and groom on the block. We thought it would be a beautiful way to start this part of our life together by giving back to organizations who do so much for others and make our community and world better for others in such a smart, inspiring, and responsible way.

We considered many generous and reputable organizations and finally landed on the following three favorites: one group that provides others with a good home (Habitat for Humanity), one organization that prevents many people from going hungry (So Others May Eat), and one that helps others become better writers, communicators, artists, collaborators, and HUMANS — Young Playwrights’ Theater! I also wanted to give back to YPT because of what it provided me as an educator and artist. As we make our living in the arts industry, it seemed to make sense to give back to a group that does such vital and beautiful work through theatre.  

What do you hope comes out this donation?
Hopefully when others hear about our donations and love and respect for YPT, they will consider giving to this remarkable organization. After seeing first hand the impact YPT makes through performing students’ plays and working as a Teaching Artist in schools across DC on behalf of YPT, I know our contributions are being smartly and carefully invested in not only paying arts educators and administrators a fair wage and providing essential professional training,  but providing young artists life-changing education, opportunities, and experiences. I continue to read about the new skills students will need to possess to compete in the 21st century. Many are skills that are best developed through theater and project-based learning: collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.  This is something I have always suspected. It’s exciting to read about such assessments and predictions in the top education journals and the most respected studies.

How did you learn about YPT?
I first learned of YPT when Josette Marina Murray hired me to be an actor in a YPT reading at Imagination Stage in the late 90s. I will never forget the expressions on the young playwrights’ faces and their frank and exhilarated reactions after the performance and talk-back. I also enjoyed getting nervous in a whole new way. There was a real responsibility attached to doing a good job and honoring the text and character and tone of the play. It wasn’t about me and my career, it was about these young artists and their lives. In what can sometimes be a very selfish art form, I realized again the power of theatre and how it can change a life — not just change a night.

If you had a personal mission statement, what would it be?
Listen. Work hard but don’t be a martyr. Remind yourself why you love the work. Love the work. Celebrate what gifts each person brings to the table. Model good behavior. Take good care of your voice, body, mind and heart. Gently help others learn to take good care of their voices, bodies, minds and hearts. Don’t dumb things down or talk down to young artists. Be compassionate. Don’t neglect your own creative process. Take time to nurture it so you can share the fruits with lots of people. Pay it forward when you have a little more. Use your voice and talents for good.

What is your favorite summer activity?
Ian is a gifted chef and does the heavy lifting in that department though we both love cooking healthy and creative concoctions together in the kitchen while blasting new CDs and having kitchen dance parties. We also love going to see our friends in plays around the city then going out afterwards to discuss, dissect, and delight…and going to the 9:30 club to see cool bands.

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Young Playwrights' Theater teaches students to express themselves clearly and creatively through the art of playwriting.

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