Moreno and MPT team up to recruit school volunteers

August 14, 1993|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Theater Critic

Rita Moreno, an actress with a special interest in education, will headline "Project Reach Out," Maryland Public Television's sixth annual telethon, which encourages Marylanders to donate time, not money, by volunteering in public schools.

Co-produced with the state Department of Education, the telethon will be broadcast live on MPT channels 22 and 67 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 9 with the first hour simulcast on WJZ (Channel 13).

Moreno, who has worked with abused children in the Los Angeles area, is committed to helping students build self-esteem through the arts, her husband, Dr. Leonard Gordon, said from the couple's California home. In recognition of the actress' interests, this year's telethon will target Hispanic and inner-city students, according to a spokeswoman for MPT.

Currently shooting a movie called "Blackout" for Columbia Pictures, Moreno made her most recent appearance in this area at a 1992 Washington fund-raiser for the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Before that, she performed at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in 1990 and starred in the female version of "The Odd Couple," at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in 1984.

The 61-year-old performer is the only actress to win all four of show business' top awards -- the Academy Award for "West Side Story" (1962), the Tony for "The Ritz" (1975), the Grammy for the soundtrack, "The Electric Company" (1972), and two Emmys for "The Rockford Files" (1978) and "The Muppet Show" (1977).

As the headliner of "Project Reach Out," Moreno will follow in the footsteps of previous stars Pearl Bailey, Melba Moore, Hal Linden, Ben Vereen and Gary Morris. She will sing and dance on the show, which will also include guest appearances by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. In addition, the program will feature profiles of Maryland schools and educators as well as entertainment by cheerleaders from local schools.

This year's "Project Reach Out" is expected to benefit 600,000 students statewide. Partially funded by corporations including Legg Mason, Fila Footwear USA, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., Crown Central Petroleum Corp. and Maryland Federal Bancorp Inc., the telethon is still seeking underwriters, who can call Jack Gilmore at (410) 581-4150.

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