Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Washington Social Diary - Disco Shakespeare

A view of the dinner from the rafters at the annual gala for the Harman Center for the Arts.
Disco Shakespeare
by Carol Joynt

Sir Ian McKellen has won enough acting awards to fill a vanity room or two, but after an evening in his company it seems vanity is not in his personal quiver. For decades actors have come to Washington practically weekly, but once in the room they get shy or weary or downright reticent about the photo ops and the meet and greet. Not McKellen.

Sunday night at the annual gala for the Harman Center for the Arts, McKellen was friendly and smiling through every single hug, handshake and flash from a phone camera. During cocktails, during dinner, after dinner, all the way to the door. It’s possible he posed at least once with every person in the room. Was his good humor simply a master performance? If so, bring the man more awards. Or perhaps he was cheered to see the scantily clad disco dancers who enlivened the dinner.
Outside the Harman Center for the Performing Arts.
As soon as he arrived, Sir Ian McKellen began to happily greet guests.
Bob Madigan interviews McKellen. Stephanie Green with Ian McKellen.
A British moment: McKellen with Lady Sheinwald and Ambassador Sheinwald.
Haley Pivato, Ian McKellen, and Luca Pivato.
Buff bare chests sprinkled with glitter, skimpy gym shorts and tight packages are not the routine at Washington galas, but lest anyone assume the hosts did a cattle call at the city’s gay bars, these dancers – young men and women – were from Harvard University, part of “The Donkey Show,” a disco-era “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed with a perspective and zest Shakespeare might have appreciated.

Does anyone remember Rollerena at Studio 54? You get the picture.
Anna Hoffman and Garrett Graff, the new editor of Washingtonian Magazine. Susan Eisenhower and Kevin Chaffee.
British Ambassador and Lady Sheinwald, the evening's patrons. Marla Allard.
Robert Lehrman, brother of one of the evening's honorees, the late Heidi Berry. Kay Kendall, Jack Davies, and Mary Bird.
Interpretations of “the Bard’s most lyrical work” were the evening’s theme, which began at the Harman Center with an eclectic range of stage performances. The avant garde Synetic Theater did a lively, vivid but silent take on Puck’s “awakening,” while Tony-winning Stew – Mark Stewart and Heidi Rodewald – were moody and evocative with two selections on guitar and keyboard. Ballet West did a traditional but beautiful Pas de Deux, “The Nocturne for Oberon and Titania,” with an especially lithe Romi Beppu. The grand finale was a Zulu dance blow out from Step Afrika!

The $1000 (and up) tickets benefited the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and there were awards, of course, including the “highlight” honor, The William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, which went to McKellen. Also honored were two of Washington’s best-known philanthropists and arts patrons, Max Berry and his late wife, Heidi Berry, a member of the company’s board. Sidney Harman presented Berry with The Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts.
Kathleen and Thomas Matthews (Photo: James Brantley).
Gerald and Eden Rafshoon. Steven and Debbie Epstein, among the evening's chief benefactors.
Jonathan Silver, center, having a laugh.
Bite sized Peking Duck. Ann and Walter Pincus.
Philip Arlen talks to friends. Director David Muse, who was in charge of the evening, with Colleen Delany.
In recalling their long marriage and his wife, who died earlier this year, an emotional Berry told the audience, “Truth is we picked each other up at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, and it was a great ride. We never liked being away from each other. I’d get homesick at Kennedy Airport before going away on a trip. It was that kind of relationship.” He said, “Heidi loved The Shakespeare Theatre. She worried and kvetched about it.”

From the Harman Center the almost 400 guests walked a block to the dinner at the National Building Museum. The October night was crisp and clear, in contrast to the occasion last year, which was wet and bone-chilling. They entered the cavernous building, greeted by the “Donkey” disco ensemble and a “Midsummer” fantasy where the table settings, designed by Suzanne Codi, were each an enchanting garden of herbs, branches, moss, roses, hanging votive candles, paper butterflies and picnic baskets of bread and crudite. The baskets were later returned to the tables empty so guests could help themselves to the plants, which were in effect the swag.
Before the show - a busy bar with pretty flowers.
The cocktail party in full swing.
The audience as the gala begins.
Social Washington of late has been on an unpredictable roller coaster. Go to one black tie event and it’s loose and nearly wild, and then go to another and it’s subdued. The mood seems to swing on the presence of younger Obama Administration staff.

The Harman Center gala was somewhere in between. Smaller than last year’s, and less lively, but maybe that was the Sunday night factor. The work week is hard here, and understandably so. Actually, the work week never ends. There was only one Administration official at the party: Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney. So, thank goodness for the bright and generous Sir Ian McKellen, prompting one unmarried female guest to ask, “Why are all the good men gay?” A question to be answered anon ...
Sir Ian McKellan, Melanie Jessop, and British Ambassador Sir Negel Sheinwald on way to dinner at the National Building Museum (Photo: James Brantley).
At the National Building Museum, the table settings by Suzanne Codi.
Another of the tables.
Table #11, dining among the herbs and flowers.
Braised Lamb Cassoulet from Design Cuisine.
A "sustainable" menu card.
Other guests included: Kenneth and Carol Adelman, Neil Albert, Nick and Marla Allard, Kay Kendall and Jack Davies, Hunter and Kathleen Biden, Ralph Davidson and Lou Hill Davidson, Steven and Debbie Epstein, Huda and Sami Farouki, Rep. Jane Harman, Helen Henderson, Landon and Carol Butler, Julia Chang Bloch and Stewart Marshall Bloch, Michael Beardon, Laura and Barry Clapsaddle, Karen DeWitt, David Catania, Jack Evans and Michele Seiver, John Hill, Amb. Said Jawad and Shamim Jawad, Michael Klein, Joan Fabry, Daniel and Mariella Levinas, Robert and Aimee Lehrman, Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel, William and Dorothy McSweeny, Euan Morton, Mike and Pam Peabody, Walter and Ann Pincus, Garrett Graff and Ella Hoffman, Gerald and Eden Rafhsoon, Frank Randolph, Mary Bird, Susan Eisenhower, Natwar Gandhi, Michael Kahn, Ada Linowes, Kathleen and Thomas Matthews, Jonathan Silver and Melissa Moss, Rachel Pearson, Charles Mitchem, Francesca Craig, Lucky Roosevelt, Chase Rynd, Valerie Santos, Riley Temple, Luca and Haley Pivato, Pamela Sorenson, Roderick and Alexia von Lipsey, Suzanne and Glenn Youngkin, Tom Graham, George and Georgia Stamas, Elliot Gerson, Debbie Gurner, Nick, Tyler and Marla Allard.
Shakespeare meets disco. Welcome to the party! A member of Harvard's "The Donkey Show." Members of "The Donkey Show" out of their disco era costumes.
Two members of "The Donkey Show" escort Riley Temple into the party.
Scenes from the dance floor as guests arrived for dinner. A scene that was not routine for D.C.
Thomas Matthews with his mother, Kathleen Matthews, head of communications for Marriott. The duo known as "Stew" - Heidi Rodewald and Mark Stewart.
Elliot Gerson and Francesca Craig
Tyler Allard, with his mother, Marla. Director David Muse
Kathleen Biden, Kingdon Gould III, and Hossein Fateh (Photo: James Brantley).
Honoree Max Berry Michael Kahn, Francesca Craig and Ian McKellen
Francesca Craig and Nick Allard Kenneth and Carol Adelman
Jonathan Silver and Melissa Moss do their part to get the party started.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: caroljoynt.com.