THE ANNUAL EVENT HONORS HOUSTONIANS WHO CHAMPION THE PERFORMING ARTS AND ARTS EDUCATION
Theatre Under The Stars will host the Leading Ladies Luncheon on Friday, April 16 at 11 a.m. at Houston’s renowned Tony’s on Richmond Ave. This annual event honors outstanding Houstonians who champion the performing arts and arts education.
“After such a long time apart, we are delighted to join together and celebrate the amazing people in our community who make a tangible difference for Houstonians every day,” said Hillary Hart, TUTS Executive Director. “Through their passion and tireless service, this year’s honorees demonstrate the power of the performing arts in transforming lives.”
The honorees are:
Carrie Woliver — Shirley Stein Outstanding Champion of the Arts and Education Award
Kristina Sullivan — Arts Educator of the Year
Anneliese Kelly — Volunteer of the Year
Gia Ochsenbein — Volunteer of the Year
Alyssa Sunew — Volunteer of the Year
The luncheon is emceed by ABC-13’s Gina Gaston and features performances by Simone Gundy with Dr. John Cornelius and students from TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre and The River, along with the awards ceremony and a silent auction. The 2021 Leading Ladies Luncheon is chaired by Demetra Jones.
“While we are excitingly waiting for our theatres to fully open back up, we can come together in-person to show our love for the performing arts,” said Demetra Jones, chair of the event. “Now more than ever, the arts need support from our community.”
TUTS Leading Ladies are a dynamic group of women with a shared passion for musical theatre. They are committed to Theatre Under The Stars Education and Community Engagement efforts through volunteering, fundraising and hosting exclusive events for Houston’s most ardent performing arts advocates.
Tickets start at $150 and may be accessed at TUTS.com. Proceeds benefit barrier-breaking programming at TUTS. Guests who are not able to attend in person will have the opportunity to participate in the auction virtually and experience the performances and awards presentation via a livestream option.
Carrie Woliver From her first introduction to musical theater as a child, Carrie Woliver has been a participant and a supporter of the arts wherever she lived. She studied piano for 12 years, then voice in college and was subsequently cast as a singer in many shows in Dallas, Houston, and Brussels, Belgium, where she resided for five years with her husband, Ron. She played Polly in “The Boyfriend,” the second TUTS musical in Miller Outdoor Theater in 1969, and a number of years later was in the chorus of TUTS production of The King and I. She performed many years at The Country Playhouse, now the Queensbury Theatre, and in the 90’s in a duo, He & She, with Dr. Keith Robinson.
Using her degree in communications from the University of Texas, she worked for the ABC affiliate KTRK-TV and later the independent KHTV-TV in Houston. But it was with Dr. Robinson that she became a producer of their nationally syndicated health radio talk show called “America Talks Health.” She thrived on the administrative details of being producer of a daily two-hour show.
The next venture was producing a television documentary series, The Brutal Truth, about child abuse prevention, which won several Emmy’s. In August, 2014, she co-produced a documentary tribute to George P. Mitchell, the visionary oil man and founder of The Woodlands, TX, with Studio W, Inc.
Besides her work in television production, Carrie has put her administrative and creative talents to work volunteering. She has served on numerous non-profit boards in Houston: Theatre Under the Stars, The Country Playhouse, Houston Achievement Place, Homes of St. Mark, and more recently, the Ambassadors Council for the A. D. Players. Being a champion of the arts, she enthusiastically raises funds for the theaters she supports.
She is a member of the Houston Women in Film and Television organization and sings in her church choir at Chapelwood United Methodist Church.
In 2011, Carrie tried her hand as an author, and penned an historical memoir called “The Train Stopped in Orange,” about the 1917 diaries of her grandparents and her childhood memories growing up in Orange, TX, in the fifties. As a result of the book, she helped lead the charge to restore an historic Southern Pacific Depot in Orange in her home town. She serves as founder and president of Friends of the Orange Depot, leading a passionate volunteer group.
Besides her work, Carrie enjoys being with her grandchildren, Nick and Conrad Bennett, sons of her only daughter, Christi, and likes to spend time with them at her family’s farm in Bellville. She loves tennis and you can still find her at her piano quite often.
Kristina Sullivan is the Executive Director of Queensbury Theatre, and Founder/Director of the Tribble School for the Performing Arts. She initiated the program with a goal of providing arts programming and a range of performing arts curriculum for students of all ages and backgrounds. Additionally, she performs as a full time company member at Houston’s award winning Music Box Theater. A native to Houston, Kristina has worked for over 20 years in the Houston arts community, including positions at Music Box Young Artists – Founder/Director (2012-2015); Masquerade Theatre – Tribble School Administrator/Resident Company Member (2003-2012) performing for many years in the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall. Favorite acting credits include Next to Normal (Diana), My Fair Lady (Eliza), Sunday in the Park with George (Dot/Marie), Parade (Lucille), The Man of La Mancha (Aldonza) and the title role in the national premiere of the 2010 revival ofJane Eyre. She has directed professional and student productions with The Tribble School for the Performing Arts, Music Box Young Artists, Music Box Musicals, and Masquerade Theater, and crafted curriculum for original workshops, clinics and cabarets for adults and students. She received her BA from the University of Houston, where she studied Vocal Performance (The Moore School of Music), and Psychology.
Anneliese Kelly, a senior Honors student and NHS member, is currently in her 7th year studying at Humphreys School of Musical Theater and performing in shows with Theater Under The Stars. Growing up with three siblings with special needs has given her a unique perspective on working with those who have disabilities. The honor of being part of a Theater that is at the forefront of the significant movement to be inclusive of the Disabled Community is something she will be eternally grateful for. Anneliese has been volunteering with The River for almost five years. The irreplaceable time she has spent creating art with her friends there will hold a special place in her heart. She plans to earn a BFA in Musical Theater and to work with the Disabled Community after graduation. Liesie would like to thank her parents and mentors at TUTS for their continued support, and the Leading Ladies for this award.
Gia Ochsenbein is a senior at Incarnate Word Academy and a tenth-year academy student at the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. She has been performing since the age of three and hopes to continue pursuing acting as a career in the near future. She has gotten the opportunity to work with The River as a volunteer in dance, voice, acting, and art for almost two years now. In addition to this, she has worked as an intern for the TUTS summer program helping children with the dances, scenes, and songs that they perform at the end of the weeks. This volunteer work has allowed her to see the true effect art has on the community, and how powerful it can be when people come together and combine their creative efforts. She would like to thank her parents, Theatre Under The Stars, the River, the Leading Ladies, and God for this award!
Alyssa Sunew is a senior at Seven Lakes High School and a sixth year student at TUTS’ Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. She has performed in numerous professional, Off-Broadway, and community productions with Theatre Under The Stars, the MUNY in St. Louis, HITS Theatre, Rowden Music Studios, and the Houston Symphony. Alyssa is a 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts Candidate, a 2020 National YoungArts Finalist in Theatre, and a 3-time TMEA Texas All-State Choir member. She plans to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre and is so grateful for all of the amazing teachers, students, and classmates who were part of her journey at TUTS and The River.