The setting was Costa Mesa, but it "felt like the moon," whispered one guest, shivering in tissue taffeta as she swept into the austere Noguchi Gardens at South Coast Plaza Town Center.
Indeed, a blustery wind rustled ball gowns and lifted coattails during the outdoor reception before "The Leading Edge . . . " gala Saturday night, a white-tie party for major donors that kicked off South Coast Repertory Theatre's 1987-88 season, netting $125,000 for new play development.
"Perfect," gala chairwoman Lydia Himes said of the minimalist atmosphere in the wind-swept gardens. "South Coast Repertory has been so progressive in commissioning new plays, I felt it was time to move on to something new."
"We don't want people thinking we're just a little theater down the street from the Performing Arts Center," Himes said as new-age music, with the haunting sound of wind chimes, wafted on the breezes.
Before promenading to the Westin South Coast Plaza for dinner, 500 guests tipped flutes of bubbly and nibbled at canapes of prosciutto with pears and lobster medallions on toast. They also watched as SCR's new season titles were shown in throbbing laser light against a stark, white garden wall, including George Bernard Shaw's play "Misalliance," which opened Friday and will run through Oct. 18 on the theater's main stage.
"The leading edge idea is appropriate," said SCR board president James Dailey, who was receiving guests with his wife, Lois. "A decision was made, years ago, by the board of trustees and the theater's founding producers (David Emmes and Martin Benson) to make SCR one of the outstanding theaters in America. We're there, and we should celebrate it."
Among the celebrants were: SCR trustee Olivia Johnson in a stork-print sheath, with her husband, Andrew--"Andy has birdseed in his pocket," she deadpanned; trustee Kathryn Thompson, attired in the same black velvet gown she wore last year, she said, but "different because I had my designer remove the pink trim and do blue," as well as gala committee members Deeann Baldwin, buffered from the elements in her cocoon of lynx, and Barbara Bowie, who was wearing a black lace creation purchased in Rome.
Also attending were: William Lund, member of the Orange County Performing Arts Center board, sporting star-sapphire studs, and his wife, Jan, who was clad in a Grecian-style gown of clingy peach chiffon; SCR's development director, Molly Lynch, whose "leading edge" hairdo bore a streak of hot fuchsia; new SCR trustee Carl Neisser, and Kathy Barker, wife of trustee Norman Barker, in an ecru lace Jessica McClintock gown that she won at SCR's auction in June.
"My furs are still in the vault," moaned trustee Hedda Marosi, who recalled that SCR's 20th anniversary gala, three years ago, had been so hot that theater officials afterward passed out buttons that said: "I survived the hottest party of the year."
"This is the coldest one I can remember," Marosi said.
But Marosi and other guests were able to warm up in the Westin's neon-lit ballroom, where they were welcomed by Dailey, who noted proudly that SCR has produced eight new plays in the past three seasons. SCR producer David Emmes also announced that Craig Lucas' "Blue Window," an SCR production that premiered last season, was on its way to London.
Guests, who paid $250 each to attend the affair, which was open to donors who had given a minimum of $1,000 to SCR, dined on twin medallions of beef and veal, and salmon served three ways: smoked, almost-smoked and poached. Marble-chocolate mousse was served up on plates accented with neonlike tubes.
Singer Ilene Graff, who plays Marsha Owens on the "Mr. Belvedere" television series, entertained with selections that included "Jump," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and "On Broadway."
Committee members included Judie Argyros, Dora Brigham, Pauline Brower, Marcia Cashion, Bonnie Christeon, Patty Clark and Dot Clock.
Also on the committee were Arden Flamson, Charlotte Fusco, Barbie Hoyt, Margaret Karcher, Bonnie Kremer, Kathy Merriman, Donna O'Bryan, Trish O'Donnell, Barbara Peckenpaugh, Valley Reilly, Renee Segerstrom, Lynn Summerell, Judy Threshie, Catherine Thyen, Kit Toth and Barbara Wertin.