Nicole Sakowitz & Bill Pikounis, individual production sponsors of Nina Simone: Four Women and long-time supporters of People's Light. Interview conducted by Marcie Bramucci, Director of Community Investment.
Marcie: How did you first come to engage with People’s Light? (And when was that?)
Bill: We moved to the Malvern area in Summer 2005 and as we settled into our routine locations for errands like grocery shopping, we discovered the PTLC sign on Route 401. Nicole has a long time theater background as a performer, and attendance of local theaters was a common date night for the two of us since the beginning of our courtship many years ago. It only took one "tryout" show at PLTC in 2006 and we both felt right away there was something special in our "backyard".
Nicole: I'm a theater fan, but fairly critical about performance and production values. I couldn't believe our luck to have such high-quality professional theater in our neighborhood - what a gift!
Bill: By 2011 we had seen enough shows and loved all of them. I connected with Jane Moss [Director of Development] to inquire about Spotlight Society and it was a Valentine’s Day gift to Nicole that year.
M: Since then, what has been your most meaningful point of connection with us?
N: I've had so many meaningful connection points - from our girls immersion in theater school, to deeply moving or laugh-out-loud productions, to being a Trustee on the Board, to volunteering at relaxed performances, to experiencing new works on and off the campus. Some of the most meaningful experiences are the conversations with the People's Light artists and production teams, in conjunction with productions.
B: I am not well-versed in live theater so I usually do not have much background on the plays before I see them. It is fun and rewarding for me to go in blind, so to speak, and become engaged in the moment – the stage design, the emotions ranging from joy to sadness, elements of surprise, and all in between. I recall saying to Abbey [Adams, Executive Artistic Director] several years ago, I know I will always enjoy the play going in, even if I know virtually nothing about it beforehand.
M: In addition to your individual sponsorship of Nina Simone: Four Women, you have been a generous supporter of People’s Light for many years. What inspires you to give and why is that important to you?
B: Conventionally I am inspired by the art of the plays and the performances. It is important for me to decrease my ignorance, or bias, and learn about humanity, even when it makes me uncomfortable. PL always delivers there. I hope with our support of PL we can help others have these kind of experiences.
But I am also inspired by the PL organizational culture itself. It is so much more than the simple sum of its parts. The dedication and excellence are everywhere – obviously for the craft of developing theater and performing it. It has been easy to like every single professional I have met there. But the behind the scenes administration, and logistics, and management of running and improving the theater also inspires me. I trust my financial support is being used wisely. I also know that the craftsmanship and workmanship by everyone at People’s Light will always be better than the material that is started with, where materials and resources and circumstances tend to be substantially far from ideal.
M: What excites you most about Nina Simone or what are you most looking forward to about the production?
B: Once again I will find out about an important historical person and their true sacrifices to fight real injustices.
N: I've had the great good fortune to sit in on a rehearsal and was struck by the script, the strength of the four terrifically talented actors, the insight and vision of the director and the power of the musical performances. These four women will take your breath away!
Nicole and Bill live in Malvern, PA, where they are active in various professional associations and in their community. Bill works in pharmaceutical research at Johnson & Johnson and is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. A Trustee of People's Light since 2013, Nicole is Senior HR Business Partner at Vertex, Inc., the worldwide tax software and solutions company headquartered in King of Prussia and she was named Delaware Valley HR Person of the Year.