Backstage Pass Newsletter | November 2019

Witkin Charitable Foundation's Ken Kuchman Carries the Legacy Forward

It began with a phone call, 14 years ago, when BACT Executive Artistic Director Nina Meehan dialed the Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation and found the gracious and sympathetic Alba Witkin herself on the other end of the line. Since that day, the Witkin Foundation--now under the dedicated leadership of Alba’s son, Ken Kuchman--has become BACT’s longest-term major foundation supporter, providing generous, steady underwriting for our work.

We are grateful and honored to have received a $9,000 grant from the Witkin Foundation for 2019-2020, with a special focus on Theatre for the Very Young.

Unlike most foundations, which have an endowment, the Witkin Foundation receives royalties from a unique set of legal publications, known as the Witkin Treatises, that have grown over the years from the late Bernard Witkin’s original Summary of California Law and continue to be updated today.

“We take the income from those copyrighted publications and distribute the proceeds to the East Bay,” Kuchman said. “We feel our dollars go the farthest helping the youngest kids, so we support early childhood literacy, mental health organizations that help young children, shelters for families with children, clinics that provide medical care to young children, high quality childcare facilities, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, and a dance institute. The thought is, let’s get kids stabilized and ready to start kindergarten to embark on a successful educational career. Education and literacy are your ticket to becoming a productive, contributing adult member of our society. On the other end of the spectrum, we also fund programs that help older foster kids as they reach adulthood. In between those two age brackets, we fund music, art and literacy programs in elementary schools. And Alba was particularly interested in peace and nonviolence, so we have a small bucket of support for peace, nonviolence and mindfulness as well.”

BACT is fortunate that Kuchman believes in the power of the performing arts.

“I love the theatre,” he said. “It’s a way to transport kids to a different place. It’s similar to another program we support that takes kids out on the Bay in a sailboat, some of whom have never seen the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an experience that transports you somewhere, that shows you, wow, there’s another life out there, another way to live, something to strive for. That’s what’s so miraculous about theatre, it’s a way of transporting you mentally to another place. Once a child has experienced that, no one can ever take it away.”

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