Monday, November 9, 2015

Washington Social Diary: Harman Center Gala

Everyone seated in the National Building Museum at the annual Harman Center for the Arts Gala.
by Carol Joynt

It’s that time of year when every Saturday night is a whirlwind, and this past Saturday was no exception. The evening began with a drop by the annual OSS Society gala. The OSS, founded in World War II, is what became the CIA, and the gala brings out former and current spies, including CIA Director John Brennan, plus the city’s intelligence and military hierarchy.

This year’s recipient of the William J. Donovan Award was former Amb. Hugh Montgomery, who retired from CIA last year after 63 years, and who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day with the 82nd Airborne Division.

The program described Montgomery in a way that is uniquely CIA: “a Harvard Ph.D. who can handle himself in a bar fight.”
CIA Director John Brennan just as he arrived at the VIP reception before the annual OSS Society gala.
Shane Harris tweeted this photo from the OSS gala of Hugh Montgomery, noting "When he retired from CIA last year was the only former OSS member working there."
From the Ritz Carlton in West End it was off to CityCenter in downtown to meet friends (Sally Hosta, Brad and Melinda Gable, Richard and Alix Coolidge, for dinner at DBGB. I arrived early and used the time to stand outside and enjoy the incredible video installation that enchants everyone who passes by, but especially children. It is an all-encompassing 25-foot high, 50-foot wide digital screen, designed by David Niles, and features an array of live video clips, still photos, and music – a beach, the moon and stars, rain drops, a stream, a Royal typewriter, dancing in the rain, grass as it grows, a space ship. Its never boring.

CityCenter is a hub of luxury shopping and fine dining, but when you go, be sure to make time to stand inside the video art.
Children are enchanted by the all-encompassing video wall that's a principal feature of CityCenter DC.
A couple of pedestrians are silhouetted in the video art.
The video wall arches up and over and around. This view is looking straight up.
DBGB is right beside the video wall.
Dinner at DBGB: Richard Coolidge, Melinda Gable, Sally Hosta, Alix Coolige, Brad Gable. Every one of them members of the Clean Plate Club.

The annual Harman Center for the Arts Gala happened this past week. Its always on a Sunday night and starts the week off with a spectacular display of talent and a stunning good dinner dance. The gala is sentimental to me, and should be, too, for DPC and JH.

The Sidney Harman Center for the Arts opened in September 2007 as new home to the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The opening gala was so big and important that it managed to draw the NYSD “A”-team to Washington from New York for a night. David and Jeff, during that brief visit, came to Nathans to have lunch with me and, lo and behold, to ask me to write a weekly column about Washington. It touches me when I think we’ve been together for 8 years now, and have dozens of WSD’s and a zillion photos marking the journey.

David did his column about the visit to Washington, of course, and there’s a JH photo of us at lunch, supremely dated by the presence of my Blackberry phone on the table. That phone was preceded by a Verizon flip phone, a Palm Pilot, and followed by an iPhone, which is still my phone of choice and probably, like the Blackberry, moving toward obsolescence, or to my wrist. It's a mystery.
DPC and CJ at lunch at Nathans in 2007.
David’s piece, which you should read focuses on the Shakespeare Theatre and also on Jane and Sidney Harman. At the time, she was a member of Congress, and he pretty much left the spotlight to her. He didn’t seem to mind staying in the background. But Sidney was an incredibly powerful and active and innovative entrepreneur, even if behind the scenes. He was Canadian-American, a businessman and engineer, who founded a hi-fidelity company, Harman International Industries, and co-founded another, and later went into public service as an Under Secretary of Commerce and, later still, bought Newsweek magazine from The Washington Post.

Harman participated in four Harman Center galas before his death in 2011, and the Center has to be seen as a crowning achievement; its success an enduring legacy to the man. Jane now oversees the gala along with Michael Kahn, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s artistic director.
The Harman Center on gala night.
At each gala the first half is staged in the grand Sidney Harman Hall, where the high point is the presentation of the William Shakespeare Award for Classic Theatre, aka, the “Will Award.” It recognizes an artist who has made a significant contribution to classical theatre in America. This year it went to director Julie Taymor, and it was presented to her by her friend Helen Mirren.

In recent years the Will has gone to Elizabeth McGovern, Ian McKellen, Anthony Hopkins, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, F. Murray Abraham, John Hurt, Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg.
Helen Mirren with her friend Julie Taymor, who received the Will Award at this year's Harman Center gala.
Every year the party is a stand-out, but one of my favorite Harman gala’s was 2009, the year McKellen was honored. It brought needed sparkle to a long stretch of time when social life was subdued by the recession. The dinner dance had a memorable theme: Disco Shakespeare. The Harmans were on the dance floor as much or more than anyone.
Sidney and Jane Harman in 2009.
Ian McKellen with the British Amb. Nigel Sheinwald in 2009.
Ian McKellen with Hayley and Luca Pivato in 2009.
F. Murray Abraham and Michael Collins in 2012.
Taymor is best known for The Lion King, and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, but she’s also directed many plays of Shakespeare,  and some done some notable film directing, including Frida, and is acclaimed for costume design, too.

This year’s stage production was directed by Alan Paul. The theme was “Imagine: Shakespeare,” with entertainment that included, appropriately, Broadway imports Jennifer Damiano (Spider Man, Turn off The Dark), Tsidil Le Loka (the original Rafiki in The Lion King), the Joffrey Ballet’s principals Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani, Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova, and Christine Sherrill and Douglas Sills, who will star in STC’s upcoming Kiss Me Kate. In other words, a lot of love on stage for Taymor.
Looking in at the stunning decor of the Harman Center gala dinner.
Everyone seated in the National Building Museum.
The start of the Harman gala dinner always is dramatic. Here, MOMIX performs at the National Building Museum at the beginning.
Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani of the Joffrey Ballet perform an excerpt from Lar Lubovitch's Othello.
Helen Mirren, on stage at the Harman Center for the Arts in downtown Washington.
Mike Klein, Scott Kaufmann and Jeffrey M. Zell.
Julie Taymor and Michael Kahn.
The Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts went to Jeffrey M. Zell and his commercial real estate consulting firm, JM Zell, which has supported Shakespeare Theatre Company programs for a decade.

The gala raised more than $650,000 for the STC’s education and outreach programs, which means its leaders and host committee can pat themselves on the back. They included Nick and Marla Allard, Anita Antenucci, Jerry and Isabel Jasinowski, Abbe David Lowell and Molly A. Meegan, and Melissa Moss and Jonathan Silver, Stephen Allis, Stefanie Erkiletian, Miguel and Patricia Estrada, Meg and John Hauge, Kevin and Stephani Kolevar, Pauline Schneider, Stephen and Lisa Ryan, Tom and Cathie Woteki, and Suzanne and Glenn Youngkin. This year’s patron was Australian Amb. Kim Beazley.
Jonathan Silver and Melissa Moss. Frank Islam and Debbie Dreisman.
Michael Kahn and Helen Mirren.
Tsidii Le Loka, Ambassador Kim Beazley, Rose Carter, Paul Carter, Helen Mirren and Victoria Jaiani. 
 Sharon Davis, Shari Maruca, Marijke Dupree, Suzanne Youngkin, Anna Youngkin, Tess Davis (pictured in front), Caroline Maruca, Miriam Dupree and Meg Hauge.
Linda Fienberg, Jeff Bauman, Judy and Peter Jablow.
Abbe David Lowell, Maggie Farley, Julie Taymor, Marcus Brauchli, Molly Meegan.
Steve and Lisa Ryan.
Damian Woetzel, Elliot Goldenthal, Julie Taymor, Justice Stephen Breyer, and Jane Harman.
Steve and Lisa Ryan.
Patricia and Miguel Estrada.
Revelers, whooping it up at the Harman Center's gala dinner dance at the National Building Museum.

It was sad news to learn of the death of Fred Thompson, an interesting and smart man who loved his state, his country, his mother’s fried green tomatoes and a good pro football game.

When he was in the Senate, and living part-time in Washington, I bumped into him often at Champions, a Georgetown saloon for sports fans, in its upstairs room that had screens in every direction. It was great fun to talk NFL football with him; no surprise he was a superfan of his home state Tennessee Titans. It was also interesting to listen to him talk about acting and how he enjoyed life on the set. “They leave you alone until they need you,” he said. Political life was probably like that, too.
I didn’t know him well, but well enough, having been introduced through a mutual friend. We went out a few times. On our first date, trying to make a good impression, and sincerely, I told him how much I enjoyed his acting and his films. “I have a favorite moment,” I said, confidently. “What’s that?” he asked. “That scene toward the end of Absence of Malice, where you come into the room and lay down the law. Wow.” He responded in that marvelous way he had of grinning and chuckling at the same time. “That was a great scene,” he said. “Only that wasn’t me. That was Wilford Brimley.” 
Photographs by Carol Joynt, Kevin Allen, and Margot Schulman.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt