Never mind that midsummer has slipped past. Saturday was a night of starry dreams for the 500 guests who attended South Coast Repertory's sellout gala, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
It was an event that launched the county's social season--and SCR's theatrical one--in grand Elizabethan manner. Arriving partygoers were heralded by a trio of trumpeters and were then escorted by elaborately costumed masqueraders into a Shakespearean wonderland.
Lacking only Puck's bewitching potion, the eighth annual event truly transformed the evening under the stars--outside at Town Center Park with even more glitter and shine inside at Westin South Coast Plaza hotel--into a late summer night's dream.
Guests nibbled on hors d'oeuvres amid Town Center's sleek high-rises as they were treated to a 16th-Century carnival set against a backdrop of banners, flowered and ribboned Maypoles and glowing paper butterflies.
The Southern California Early Music Consort created a Renaissance faire ambiance, with period tunes and jugglers. A tight-rope walker and courtly dancers provided continuous entertainment. The staging was the brainchild of SCR award-winning resident artist Cliff Faulkner, who said the Shakespearean theme suggested by chairwoman Judy Threshie: "Let us go wild."
After an hour or more of mingling and munching, a trumpet fanfare signaled dinner, and the procession of guests was led by a torchbearer and musicians down an enchantingly lit path to the grand ballroom of the Westin.
Once inside, guests were treated to more of Faulkner's wizardry. The room was a magical night forest, with midnight blue lame covering the walls and miniature lights, a perfect complement to a seven-course dinner, dancing to Tex Beneke's Big Band sound and the songs of Rosemary Clooney.
The fund-raiser was SCR's launching of "The Campaign for SCR," an integrated five-year plan to raise $12 million in capital, endowment and annual funds for the theater. More than $120,000 was raised Saturday night, according to SCR board of trustees president John O'Donnell.
O'Donnell told the gathered patrons that SCR is on the threshold of a new era.
"We have already started our Colab (collaboration theater), in which we are collaborating with playwrights around the nation to produce world premieres," said O'Donnell, who noted that 260,000 people will attend SCR this coming season.
John Dailey, board vice president and campaign chairman, said, "We're a little over $8 million, giving credit to the annual funds over five years, but we still have a long way to go."
O'Donnell also introduced SCR founders, producing artistic director David Emmes and artistic director Martin Benson.
Emmes called the 1986-87 season "our most ambitious" with the world premiere of Keith Reddin's "Highest Standard of Living" opening the season tonight.
Benson said SCR's hosting of "five premiere plays out of the 11 scheduled between mainstage and second stage is a tremendous sign of our maturity as a theater."
The opening night of the county social whirl brought out some sartorial "show stoppers." Committee member Judie Argyros literally stopped traffic with her strapless purple gown with extra-long train. But Michelle Wangberg's elegant ivory peau de soie gown (by Murray Arbeid of London) had two trains, which she gingerly gathered up to dance the night away with husband, Larry.
As Beneke struck up "Tenderly," Clooney took the stage, singing from a repertoire that included George Gershwin and Cole Porter classics and her famous "Come On-a My House."
Clooney is no stranger to SCR. Her son, Gabriel Ferrer, appeared in a production of "The Show-off" with SCR a few years ago.