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“Some things just get in your blood,” comments Ed Roberts, as he recalls a childhood filled with music and theatre. He shares stories of how his mother played the piano daily and kept WCRB’s classical music program on the radio all day long. She and his father took their children to musical comedies as often as they could. “I grew up feeling that music is a very important part of life.”
That upbringing laid the foundation for a life filled with the arts. When Nancy and Ed first met, this appreciation for culture only blossomed, and continued to grow throughout their nearly sixty years of marriage. After first being introduced to the BU Theatre (now Huntington Theatre Company), they became more involved in Boston’s theatre scene, ultimately learning about the Huntington’s plans to build the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End and feeling a drive to be a part of the process. Thanks to their generosity, we now have the Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre, in which SpeakEasy performs most of its productions.
Around this time, an in-law introduced the Roberts to SpeakEasy, bringing them to a SpeakEasy production at the BCA’s Plaza Theatre, and they loved that the company took risks with their programming. SpeakEasy had just been named the Calderwood’s Resident Theatre Company as the building was opening in 2004. Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault welcomed the Roberts to the company with a season subscription, and they have never looked back. In fact, Nancy has served on SpeakEasy’s Board of Directors for the past eight years, and Ed has been an invaluable advisor to the organization since that first meeting. Nancy commented, “Back then, SpeakEasy was extremely avant-garde – and it was exciting. Paul has, in my opinion, been remarkable in how he has evolved Speakeasy’s offerings and audience. It’s a challenging, exciting series of plays every year, and we just love it.”
Ed and Nancy fully understand the resources it takes to produce high quality theatre, and they are committed to supporting those organizations about whose work they are passionate. In addition to SpeakEasy and the Huntington, Nancy and Ed are also benefactors of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, North Country Chamber Players and Weathervane Theatre in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and many other arts and cultural organizations. They are also passionate volunteers. In addition to serving on SpeakEasy’s board, Nancy also serves as an Overseer at the MFA and on the board of the Boston Center for Adult Education. Ed has served on the board of the North Country Chamber Players for many years and has had a number of different roles at Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
In addition to their philanthropic contributions, the Roberts have made significant contributions in their professions. Nancy was a faculty member at Lesley University for forty years, where she founded the Master’s program in Technology in Education and was a pioneer in the utilization of emerging technologies in classrooms. Ed is the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at MIT, where he shares his talents as an expert in advanced technology management and entrepreneurship, a serial high-tech entrepreneur, and a leading angel investor. They both most enjoy spending time with their three children and nine grandchildren.
“SpeakEasy Stage is thrilled to honor Nancy and Ed Roberts as true friends of both the arts and Boston artists,” said Paul Daigneault in announcing the honorees. “Throughout their many years of service, both Nancy and Ed have advocated for and demonstrated the power of the arts to change lives and build healthy, vibrant communities. We are excited to honor them both with the company’s own Mayor Thomas M. Menino Memorial Award for Inspired Support of the Arts, given annually at our Spring Gala.”
People often approach Nancy and Ed when seeing a SpeakEasy show in the Roberts Theatre and thank them for their gift. Artists and audience members alike express their gratitude for the theater space that means so much to our Boston arts community. At first, Nancy and Ed were taken aback, but now it happens often enough that they just enjoy the conversation and the opportunity to meet new people involved with SpeakEasy. They are very pleased to have had the opportunity to give this gift to the community.
The Roberts will receive the Mayor Thomas M. Menino Award for Inspired Support of the Arts at SpeakEasy’s annual Spring Gala on Friday, April 5th at the Revere Hotel Boston Common.
For more information about the Spring Gala, or to support or attend the event, please visit speakeasystage.com/gala.