2018 gala

Jason Alexander

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Though best known for his award-winning, nine year stint as the now iconic George Costanza of television’s Seinfeld, Jason Alexander has achieved international recognition for a career noted for its extraordinary diversity. Aside from his performances on stage, screen and television, he has worked extensively as a writer, composer, director, producer and teacher of acting. In between all that he has also become an award-winning magician, a notorious poker player and a respected advocate on social and political issues. 

For his depiction of “George” on Seinfeld, Jason garnered six Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, an American Television Award and two American Comedy Awards. He won two Screen Actor Guild Awards as the best actor in a television comedy despite playing a supporting role and in 2012 he was honored to receive the “Julie Harris Award for Lifetime Achievement” from the Actor's Fund.

Aside from Seinfeld, Jason has starred and guested in shows as The Grinder, Drunk History, Friends, Two and a Half Men, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Criminal Minds, Monk, Franklin and Bash, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bob Patterson, Listen Up, Hit the Road, Orville and Young Sheldon. He also starred in the television films of Bye Bye Birdie, Cinderella, A Christmas Carol and The Man Who Saved Xmas. Additionally, his voice has been heard most notably in Duckman, The Cleveland Show, American Dad, Tom and Jerry and Kody Kapow.

His many films include: Pretty Woman, Jacob’s Ladder, Love Valor Compassion, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dunston Checks In, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Shallow Hal. In addition he directed the feature films For Better or Worse and Just Looking. He is also a distinguished television director, overseeing episodes of Seinfeld, Til Death, Everybody Hates Chris, Mike and Molly, Criminal Minds and Franklin and Bash. He won the American Country Music Award for his direction of Brad Paisley's video “Cooler Online.” 

While still in college, his desire to work as a stage actor in New York came to be with his debut in the original Broadway cast of the Hal Prince/Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along. He continued starring on Broadway in the original casts of Kander and Ebb’s The Rink, Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound, Rupert Holmes’ Accomplice and his Tony Award winning performance in Jerome Robbin’s Broadway. Jason also authored the libretto for that show which went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical. After moving to LA, Jason continued working in the theater, notably serving as the artistic director for the Reprise Theatre Company and for the hit West Coast production of Mel Brook’s The Producers in which he starred along with Martin Short. Most recently, Jason returned to Broadway to star in the Larry David comedy Fish in the Dark at the Cort Theater and recently appeared in the John Patrick Shanley’s The Portuguese Kid at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

He has also helmed a number of stage productions including: The God of Hell at the Geffen Playhouse; Broadway Bound at the Odyssey; an updated revival of Damn Yankees and The Fantasticks, as well as Sunday in the Park with George for Reprise and most recently the world premiere of Windfall by Scooter Pietsch for the Arkansas Repertory Theater.

Mr. Alexander tours the country and the world performing his one-man show, “As Long As You’re Asking, a Conversation with Jason Alexander,” which contains music, comedy and conversation. He can also be seen in his whimsical salute to Broadway musicals with some of the finest symphony orchestras throughout the United States. You can stay in touch with Jason via Twitter (@IJasonAlexander)

Miss America 2018 - Nia Franklin

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 Nia Franklin was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and lived in the state through graduate school. She earned an undergraduate degree in music composition from East Carolina University, and a master’s in music composition from The University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts. Shortly after, Nia was awarded a Kenan Fellowship at New York’s Lincoln Center Education and made the move to New York City. 

During Nia’s college junior year, her father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and she became his stem cell donor. This turn of events led Nia to the Miss America Organization. “I had to find a way to pay for myself to go to school and so I entered this competition and this organization and it became much more than just the scholarship money for me, it was also about the mentorship, leadership and sisterhood you find in this program.”

Nia was crowned Miss Five Boroughs at the age of 23, and then went on to win Miss New York 2018. And was awarded the job of Miss America 2019 on September 9, 2018.

Nia has been a teacher and music mentor, and has written over 100 songs, including one she began performing at age five. (The lyrics begin: “Love, love, love, love, love is the only thing that matters to me…”).  For the Miss America 2019 competition, Franklin sang “Quando m’en Vo'” from Puccini’s La Boheme and wowed audiences and judges alike.

Throughout her year as Miss America  Nia will be working on her social impact initiative ADVOCATING FOR THE ARTS.  Nia speaks with students, school administrators, and teachers about the importance of arts education and why it is so vital to a well-rounded education.