News & Politics

A Night Out: Shakespeare Theatre’s 20th Annual Gala

What: The Shakespeare Theatre's Annual Gala

Where: The Mellon Auditorium

When: Sunday, March 4, 2007, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Who: The local arts patron crowd, including a smattering of notables like Senator Richard Shelby, Trading Spaces' Paige Davis (who is married to the Theatre's Patrick Page), and arts booster Sewla "Lucky" Roosevelt. Sid Harman, the name behind the Theater's gleaming new headquarters across from the Verizon Center, gave a rousing speech.

Ticket Price: $400 for starters 

Food: From the passed appetizers to the saffron couscous and spring pea stacks to the medallions of spring lamb to the delicious corn and asparagus risotto, the food was a cut above the normal banquet fare. Plus true A-List Washingtonians might have recognized the tart golden meringue & lemon tower from another swanky DC affair this winter, although we can't say which one.

Drink: Red and white wine, specifically Frei Brothers Sonoma Chardonnay 2005 and Bridlewood Center Coast Syrah 2004.

Scene: The room was bedecked in honor of last year's performance of Love's Labor's Lost, which was set in the 1960s India. Costumes graced the back, while elaborate orange centerpieces and red floodlights brought beauty to the canvernous Mellon.Of course no evening of theater would be without drama: Gala host Kathleen Matthews rode into the dinner on a Vespa—perhaps the first time that anyone has ever ridden one inside the Mellon Auditorium. Then, at one table in the back, the freesia hanging from the hookah centerpiece caught fire from one of the tealights on the table. The evening also served as the beginning of the celebration of the opening of the Theatre's Harman Center for the Arts. An obviously moved Michael Kahn, the Theatre's artistic director, called the night a "thanksgiving dinner" among friends and family.

Auction: The silent auction included such things as a walk-on role in Love's Labor's Lost, a theater weekend in New York City, dinner for four at the Inn at Little Washington, seven nights in Bali, and the cornerstone of the live auction was four nights in Venice, including airfare and a private tour of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, that went for $6,000.

Awkward Yet Funny Moment of the Night: When Chris Matthews, husband of the host/auctioneer, bid $3,500 on the Vespa during the evening's live auction. His wife didn't appear to be amused that they might suddenly be owners of a scooter in the color of his choice. The evening ended up surpassing its goal of $500,000 to support the Theatre and its summer free performances at the Carter Barron Amphitheater.

Honoree of the Night: The Will Award, the evening's main event, which in previous years has gone to actors like Dame Judy Dench, Kevin Kline, and Kevin Spacey, this year went to the entire Shakespeare Theatre company in honor of its 20th anniversary.

Moving Moment of the Night: At the end of the presentation, actor Floyd King, who is known for his portrayal of Shakespeare's clowns, spoke on behalf of the company, was at times funny and heart-warming. He concluded, "The honor is the work, and the work is an honor."


Bold Face Names: 3.5 (out of 5)
Food/Drink: 4 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4.5 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)

Total Score: 16 (out of 20)

More photos below.