The Broadway League has announced the recipients of its 2023 League Awards. These awards have been given since 1992, honoring exemplary service to the touring industry.
Former president and chief executive officer of Playhouse Square, Gina Vernaci, received the Distinguished Lifetime Service Award. At the Playhouse, Vernaci supervised more than 1,000 annual performances, grossing $48 million in sales. She has pioneered programs that have led to the Playhouse’s status as the region’s premiere entertainment locale and the nation’s second-largest performing arts center. Vernaci is also a Tony Awards voter and served on the Broadway League’s Board of Governors.
Playhouse Square’s Chris Meyers was honored with Outstanding Achievement in Road Group Sales. Meyers previously served as season ticket manager and sales manager at the venue before moving into his current role as senior manager of group sales. He also serves as co-chair of the Broadway League’s Road Group Sales Committee and Forum Planning Committee.
Kelli Palan and Scott Hemerling each received the Outstanding Achievement in Road Marketing and Press Award. This is the first time the award has been given to two recipients in the same year. Palan and Hemerling serve as directors of regional engagement for Disney Theatrical Group. Their efforts have promoted tours of such shows as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aida,” “High School Musical,” “Newsies,” “Aladdin” and “Frozen.” During her tenure at Disney, Palan was the sole press agent on “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aida” and “High School Musical.” Similarly, during Hemerling’s career at Disney, he was the sole press agent to launch and represent “Mary Poppins” on tour. These two honors to Palan and Hemrling mark the first time a touring press agent has been honored since 2005.
Marisol Sánchez-Best was honored with the Outstanding Achievement in Education and Engagement Award for her work at Seattle Theatre Group, focusing on access for historically underrepresented communities.
President of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center Ron Legler received the Outstanding Achievement in Presenter Management Award — also known as the Samuel J. L’Hommedieu Award. Legler has been a leader in group sales since the start of his career. He previously served as the president of the Florida Theatrical Association. In 2022, he helped pass legislation in Maryland providing a tax credit incentive for producers to launch national tours and pre-Broadway productions in the state. Under his leadership, he has grown the subscription base and increased the subscription renewal rate at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center to its highest level ever.
Kara Gebhart was honored with the George MacPherson Road Award. Gebhart is the chief operating officer of the Booking Group and, through her work, has brought 27 Best Musical Tony winners to theaters across North America. She serves on the Broadway League’s Road Presenters/Intra-Industry Committee and the Spring Road Conference Planning Committee.
Finally, the Star of Touring Broadway Awards recognize board members, government leaders, donors and volunteers who support Broadway Series in their home towns. This year’s honorees are Congresswoman Kathy Manning of North Carolina, chairman of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Jim Pugh and the Boston Area Lexus Dealers Association.
“Congratulations to this year’s League Award honorees, who exemplify excellence in their endeavors of presenting and enriching Broadway in their hometowns,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement. “Broadway is a vital national industry. During the 2022-2023 season, touring Broadway reached an audience of more than 16.5 million with 39 shows touring in more than 180 cities. This would not be possible without the tremendous support and efforts of our members.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Scott Hermling’s position at Disney Theatrical. This has been clarified and corrected.