Greg Mortenson to Be Honored At Gala for Literature to Life May 18, 2010

The Literature to Life program of The American Place Theatre will honor Greg Mortenson, the author and humanitarian, with its 2010 Literature to Life Award and a live performance of an excerpt of Mortenson’s book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time,” at a gala May 18, 2010 at The Time Center, 242 West 41st Street. The event will benefit the American Place Theatre’s arts and literacy outreach in schools across America. Mortenson will address the gala and see his NY Times bestseller performed for the first time.

A verbatim theatrical adaptation of the book has been directed by Wynn Handman for Literature to Life. It will debut at the Gala, performed by Curtis Nielsen. This one man theater presentation, named “Three Cups of Tea” (after the book), is specifically designed for use in schools by exposing students to Mortenson’s story, providing an inspiring first-person presence and developing understanding for Mortenson’s work in discussions before and after the performance. It will also promote Mortenson’s program, “Pennies for Peace,” into more schools than it could have reached otherwise.

Mortenson said, “The American Place Theatre, by bringing this story to life for American students, is playing a vital and unique role in our effort to achieve universal literacy and education for all children, especially girls.”

“Three Cups of Tea has been on The New York Times’ best seller list 164 weeks, as of this writing. Authored by Greg Mortenson and journalist David Oliver Relin, it recounts the unlikely journey that led Mortenson from a failed attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to successfully building schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortenson believes that “fighting terrorism” only perpetuates a cycle of violence and that there should be a global priority to “promote peace” through education and literacy, with an emphasis on girls’ education.

Afgh children
Greg Mortenson with Afghan Children.

This was catalyst to the founding of “Pennies for Peace,” a program which has inspired adults to take Mortenson’s cause more seriously and has enabled his Central Asia Institute to promote “peace through education” by building 141 schools, mostly for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Because these schools have local support (the villages have donated land, building materials and subsidized or free labor), they have been able to avoid retribution by the Taliban or other groups opposed to girls’ education. “Three Cups of Tea” is now required reading for our military leadership in Afghanistan.

Literature to Life is a performance-based literacy program that presents professionally staged verbatim adaptations of significant American literary works including “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, “Black Boy” by Richard Wright, “Teacher Man” by Frank McCourt and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. In NYC and across the country, the program gives students a new form of access to literature by bringing to life the world of the book with performances that create an atmosphere of discovery and spark the imagination. The arts/literacy program is delivered to over 30,000 underserved students annually.

The Literature to Life Award recognizes authors for their books’ deep impact on the education of young people. Past recipients have included Sue Monk Kidd, Khaled Hosseini, Tim O’Brien, Jeanette Walls, Jonathan Safran Froer, Lois Lowry, Frank McCourt and Ray Bradbury.

The award will be presented by Michael M. Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The evening will begin at 6:00 PM with cocktails, a festive strolling dinner and a live auction featuring once-in-a-lifetime travel and exotic wares from the Silk Road presided over by Hugh C. Hildlesley, Executive Vice President of Sotheby’s. At 8:00 PM there will be the Award Presentation and Literature to Life performance, followed by a tea and dessert reception with honored guests.

Benefit tickets begin at $125. For more information, call (212) 594-4482 x 18 or visit

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.