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Hartford Stage will present the Hartford Public Library with the inaugural Inspiration Award during The Heart of Connecticut Ball, the theatre’s annual Gala, on Saturday, April 18.  The Hartford Stage Inspiration Award was conceived by Artistic Director Melia Bensussen and Managing Director Cynthia Rider to celebrate and honor an individual, group, or organization which has inspired and supported the theatre in furthering its growth as a community partner. The Hartford Public Library was selected as the first award recipient in recognition of its successful four-year community partnership with Hartford Stage.

“Cynthia and I have been so inspired by the many individuals and organizations doing such incredible work in this city. As we continue to deepen our commitment to the residents of Hartford, the Hartford Public Library has helped connect us more authentically to our neighbors, welcoming new theatre-goers and more diverse audience members into our space,” Bensussen said. “As we continue to deepen connection and seek collaboration in Hartford, we have repeatedly looked toward the Hartford Public Library and the partnership Hartford Stage began four years ago as a model for that commitment. The leadership, staff, and librarians have inspired us all to understand how to better serve our community members.”

“We are deeply honored to be recognized by Hartford Stage with its Inspiration Award. That we are the first recipients of such an honor makes it all the more special,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, Chief Executive Officer of the Hartford Public Library. “Hartford Stage – with its great team of creative, committed professionals – is a pleasure to work with; and we are proud of this collaboration that continues to enrich our community in so many ways.”

Hartford Stage partnered with the Hartford Public Library four years ago to create a program inviting Hartford residents to attend shows at the theatre, free of charge. Through the Library Pass Program, which debuted with Feeding the Dragon, Hartford residents with an adult or teen library card can reserve a two-ticket pass per eligible show from any of the seven library branches in the city. Since its inception, nearly 2,000 Hartford residents have enjoyed free performances at Hartford Stage.

The partnership with the Hartford Public Library has grown to include programs designed to help Hartford Stage connect more authentically with residents of the city. One initiative, the Neighborhood Ambassador Program, is comprised of a dozen Hartford residents recommended by branch librarians who see each production together as a group and discuss the relevance of the shows to their own lives and communities. The Ambassadors, in turn, are encouraged to invite friends and neighbors to see the productions to help grow a new community of theatre-goers.

To increase theatre literacy and foster a richer theatrical experience, HPL @ Hartford Stage – a micro-branch of the Hartford Public Library housed in the Hartford Stage lobby – gives theatre-goers the opportunity to browse through a selection of carefully curated titles directly related to the themes of each production. All micro-branch titles can be checked out by theatre-goers with a valid Connecticut public library card and returned to their town’s library.

The Heart of Connecticut Ball will be held at Hartford Stage’s Scene & Paint Shop located at Murphy Road in Hartford on Saturday, April 18,, at 6 p.m. To learn more, visit