The eclectic, the innovative, and the real feel

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The Met at rest. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020. A pretty much grey and windy day, yesterday in New York. Temps went up into the 50s but the RealFeel takes it down to the low 50s. By afternoon it was overcast with a touch of moisture looking like tiny rain drops, but that was it; except by 5 o’clock it was almost dark out. The town is already quieter with not a few New Yorkers taking the week away, anticipating Thanksgiving this Thursday.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t been as quiet as it feels around here. Last Monday November 16th, for example, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) held the eclectic and innovative Le Petit Gala Outside the Box soirée. The evening presented a livestreamed performance, and offered festive dinner boxes to enjoy from home. More than 1,000 people watched this celebration of FIAF’s artistic voice, featuring performances at FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall.


Introducing the evening’s livestream from the theater, FIAF Director Marie-Monique Steckel told the guests that “… FIAF is proud to have reinvented its Gala. This creativity has allowed us to survive and even thrive in the midst of adversity.”
Jay DeYonker, master of ceremonies.
Cal Hunt, Jonah Bokaer, and Anthony Roth Costanzo.

There were specially commissioned performances from three trailblazing artists. Jonah Bokaer premiered a work, “Softer Distances,” about creating art in a time of social distancing. Cal Hunt, who was a featured performer at the Paris Opera, and a FlexN dancer presented “Gliding: From Brooklyn to Paris,” recalling his time appearing in the Opéra de Paris’s acclaimed production of Les Indes Galantes. The famed countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo with pianist Bryan Wagorn closed the live performance portion of the evening with three French songs, finishing their set with a vivacious rendition of Juliette Greco’s “Sous le ciel de Paris.”


Jonah Bokaer.
Cal Hunt.
Anthony Roth Costanzo with Bryan Wagorn (piano).

The good news for all who are interested is the performances are archived livestream and available to watch at   bit.ly/fiafgala through December 16th.

Following the performance, Gala guests including Nicolas de Rivière, French Ambassador to the UN; Jérémie Robert, French Consul General in New York, and Shinouna Karume; actor Ronald Guttman; as well as Gala committee members Homaira Akbari. Stephanie Arsham, Hombeline and Patrick Baugier de Chevestre, Anne Busquet, Samantha and Nabil Chartouni, Clo and Charles Cohen, Betty and Jean-Marie Eveillard, Charles de Lardemelle, Jeanne and Alexandre Leviant, Bénédicte de Montlaur and Keith Yazmir, Clémence and William von Mueffling, Béatrice Philippe and Zoltan Hankovszky, Dr. Michael S. Siegal and Nomi P. Ghez, Amelia and Mortimer Singer, Amy and David Sorkin, Nicole Salmasi, Elisabeth Wilmers, and Shirin von Wulffen & Frederic Fekkai, joined for a virtual dinner party at their homes.


Watching Le Petit Gala at home.
Le Petit Gala festive dinner box.
Dinner breakout room.
Virtual table hopping.

All guests received a festive and very French basket filled with foie gras from D’Artagnan, pastries from Ladurée, wine courtesy of Xavier Flouret, Champagne Vranken, Perrier, and a patterned linen napkin from Fete Home. Before the evening was over, they all came together once again for a special performance of Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing Suite by the acclaimed French violinist Renaud Capuçon from Paris’s Saint-Louis des Invalides.


FIAF Young Patrons Toast

Do you know about “Stars in the House” ? It is a wonderful daily series with new episodes from Monday through Friday at 8 pm. ET. It’s available for streaming on  the Stars in the House YouTube channel, and at StarsInTheHouse.com

“Stars in the House” creators Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley.

It was created and hosted by SiriusXM host Seth Rudetsky and his husband, producer James Wesley in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. As theaters across the world closed their curtains indefinitely, the daily live-streamed series supports The Actors Fund and its services with special performances benefiting other important organizations in need of help due to pandemic shut downs. 

“Stars In The House,” which officially kicked off on March 16th, is a daily series that features stars of stage and screen singing or performing plays live (from home) to promote support for charitable services for those most vulnerable to the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19). On the show Seth and James are joined by Dr. Jon LaPook, chief medical correspondent for CBS News.

Since the show debuted, “Stars In The House” has raised more than $574,615 to benefit The Actors Fund and other charities. It is continuing to do so thanks to a generous donation from the Berlanti Family Foundation.  Seth and James  also received a special Drama Desk Award and a Gotham Icon Award from the Museum of the City of New York for keeping the theatre community connected, informed, and uplifted during the pandemic.

For example, The Humane Society of New York’s annual fund raiser, “Best in Shows,” was canceled this year. “Stars in the House” is producing a special performance that will help with its continued care for animals in need when illness, injury or homelessness strikes.

The “Stars In The House” benefit for the Humane Society will feature Broadway stars Sierra Boggess, Lilli Cooper, Darius de Haas, Andy Karl, JoseLlana, Jesse Mueller, Orfeh, Paige Price, Kate Rockwell, Doug Sills and Will Swenson.

They will be performing live from their homes along with their pets to benefit the Humane Society of New York, this Friday, November 27 at 8pm ET on the Stars In The House YouTube channel, and StarsInTheHouse.com.

The Humane Society of New York has been a presence in New York City for over 100 years. Founded In 1904 to protect the city’s horses against abuse, the Society soon expanded to include a free medical clinic and adoption center for cats and dogs. Today the Humane Society of New York’s hospital and Vladimir Horowitz and Wanda Toscanini Horowitz Adoption Center help more than 38,000 animals annually.

I am the housemate of two former residents of the Humane Society and deeply appreciate their work in taking good care of them until I came along.


Farewell Diane Judge — more than a little bit of a legend among those “in the theater.” Passionate and knowledgeable about everything that happened within the wondrous confines of the proscenium arch. Inextricably linked to my lifetime with Liz Smith, you were the definition of tempestuous, confronting AND comforting. You delighted in the drama of stirring the pot, but you also ladled out big portions of compassion and edgy smarts. Like everyone I have loved you made me crazy — and I always came back for more. I hope your heaven is a series of fabulous opening nights. Rest in … an endless standing ovation. — Denis Ferrara


Diane Judge, Liz Smith, Iris Love … and Denis. Miss Judge and Miss Love are now up there with Miss Smith, battling for her attention. In the meantime, a merrier holiday season — not long past — than the one upon us now.

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