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TBA Online: News & Features: November 2018

Passionate philanthropy: An interview with Toni Rembe Rock

Tuesday, November 6, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TBA Staff
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by Mary Ann Grossman, TBA development director


Philanthropist Toni Rembe Rock


Theatre Bay Area supporter, Toni Rembe Rock, along with her husband Arthur Rock, will be honored as this year’s Outstanding Philanthropists by the Association of Fundraising Professionals on November 16, 2018, which is National Philanthropy Day. TBA interviewed Ms. Rembe Rock about her lifelong connection to the arts and her generosity to the Bay Area arts community.


What was your “aha! Moment” with your first encounter with arts?


I must have been four when I saw my first play, Rumplestiltskin, at a children’s theatre program at the University of Washington, and it was magical like a lot of things are at that age. If you are introduced to the arts at a very young age you make the transition to their magical qualities easily, because as a child everything in life can be magical. You just accept the experience.


How did it affect you?


As with people who first encounter a transporting theatre production in later life, the memory of Rumplestiltskin stuck with me for a long time.  That’s the way good theatre or music or dance affect me. It’s an emotional experience that becomes a part of me and endures in my memory.


How do you incorporate your passion for the arts into your professional life as a practicing attorney and as an active and leading member of the Bay Area’s philanthropic community?


The arts have enriched my life and made me a better all-around person--and a better lawyer.  I incorporate my passion for the arts into my legal work because of the empathy and mind-broadening aspects that the arts bring to all professions In the case of the visual arts, they make me more observant of the world in general. A good art exhibit sharpens my focus and brings clarity, both literally and metaphorically, which is always helpful in life and work.


As to my philanthropic activities, I have incorporated my passion for the arts by contributing financially. I also contribute by showing up at artistic events, being a member of the audience, being on boards, and advising and supporting young aspiring artists.

How did you become acquainted with the work of Theatre Bay Area?


I have been interested for many years in the extent to which local theatres might share information and help each other thrive and contribute to their art. Also, I have been a long time member of the Advisory Council of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) in New York, a similar organization to Theatre Bay Area, and served on the boards of TBA member theatres, A.C.T., and Magic Theatre.


Developing an artistic community in the Bay Area seemed to make sense.  In early 2016, I met with Brad Erickson to find out more about the work Theatre Bay Area was doing. I became interested in funding portions of TBA’s CA$H grant program, which focuses on theatre arts other than acting, like stagecraft, lighting and the under-appreciated side of theatre, without which theatre would not exist.


What would you say to someone thinking about supporting the theatre arts in general and connecting with Theatre Bay Area in particular?


[I derive] satisfaction from supporting productions that take us away from our routine and foster our imagination. As to supporting Theatre Bay Area in particular, TBA helps to build and support a viable theatre community in the Bay Area, which makes theatre more accessible to everyone here. TBA supports playwrights, actors and others engaged in the theatre arts and brings everyone together. TBA gives people a forum to learn I am pleased that the CA$H program has increased stipends to enable talented theatre artists to stay in the Bay Area.


Theatre has been around for centuries, and I know it will continue for centuries. It is food for the soul and captures a part of life. So it is important we have it here in the future. . . .


Despite competing demands on our leisure time, a thriving artistic community in the theatre arts should be kept alive and growing in the Bay Area -- far into the future.


Toni Rembe is president of the van Loben Sels/Rembe Rock Foundation, a private foundation specializing in social justice and related legal services, and is a co-founder and advisory board member of the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. She is a retired partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, where she served as a member of the firm’s governing executive committee and the managing partner of its tax practice.  She is a member of the National Council for the American Theatre and a member of the board of American Conservatory Theater. In addition to having been active on the boards of several not for profit organizations, including The Commonwealth Club of California (where she served as president), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Magic Theatre and Presidio Graduate School, she has served as a director of several public companies, both local and international.