SAN DIEGO — Had Mr. Shakespeare crashed the Old Globe's "On Stage!" gala Friday, he might have chuckled, rewritten his famous "All the world's a stage" to "This joint is full of hams" and cadged a seat at one of the front tables.
Just about everybody got into the act at the theater's big annual do, from favored Broadway crooner Michael Feinstein to the 400 or so paying guests to a handful of Soviet thespians to the 100 or so Globe staffers. By the simple expedient of moving the gala from its traditional hotel ballroom venue to the Old Globe grounds and stages, co-chairwomen Jeanne Rivkin and Evelyn Truitt (who billed themselves as "co-producers") lit the party with the theatrical incandescence that ought to come naturally to a Globe event.
Utilizing the premises not only gave the guests a close-up of what they were supporting (the event netted about $75,000), but let them participate in what amounted to a four-acter, plus asides.
Christened in the spirit of literalness, "On Stage!" took its guests from cocktails on the Lowell Davies Festival Stage to big band dancing on the main stage and disco dancing on the stage in the Cassius Carter Theatre, with stops along the way for dinner on the tented greensward and the Feinstein concert on the main stage. The Aubrey Fay Jazz Band played during dinner and provoked many guests into sustained toe-tapping during the post-concert free-for-all.
Theater staffers helped arrange the event as if it were indeed a theatrical production, and Truitt handed them a liberal share of credit for producing what several participants described as one of the year's best parties.
"The staff is so proud to do a party on their own turf, and they've accomplished so much, especially when they also have to prepare for the several Soviet arts festival programs that will be happening here," she said.
Globe spokesman Bridget Cantu said "the whole theater" had been involved in building "On Stage!" over several days.
"We've all devoted ourselves to this, but what I can't believe is that tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., the set for 'Brothers and Sisters' (a co-production with Leningrad's Maly Theatre) will be up and ready for inspection," said Cantu. "Meanwhile, we've had Russians here all week."
Among those Soviets were Maly Theatre artistic director Lev Dodin, technical director Alexei Porai-Koshitz and lead actress Tatyana Shestakova, who all were coached in the San Diego way to party by Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien and managing director Tom Hall.
At times, Hall looked just a bit beleaguered, since he carried both a beeper (for staff emergencies) and a walkie-talkie, with which he coordinated the valet parking, the proceedings on three stages and the activities on the greensward.
"This is a first for me," he growled good-naturedly. "I swore I'd never do it, but here I am."
O'Brien said that on the Sunday after "On Stage!" he would be treating the visitors to a "totally Michigan evening" of home cooking at his up-town digs.
"I'm going to make my mother's famous chicken, which is simmered with three kinds of canned soup and some wild rice for a day and a half," O'Brien said, adding teasingly, "It makes you exclaim!" (Exclamations may have been the only way to bridge the language gap, since O'Brien also said, "Lev Dodin and I have admitted to one another that we're too busy to learn the other's language, but we're very happy that way.")
Theatrical topiaries of late-season flowers bloomed under the clear-roofed tent, where the Sheraton Harbor Island hotel catered its first off-premises dinner and succeeded in serving a menu ( timbales Argenteuil , shellfish ravioli and stuffed veal breast) that was grand enough for all but one guest, who said he didn't like veal and requested that the hotel send out for a Burger King Whopper. The Sheraton obliged.
Feinstein, reportedly one of the Big Apple's hottest acts, bopped along at his piano for well over an hour, taking brief breaks whenever the audience rose to its feet to cheer him on. He played his own compositions, Irving Berlin's and Jerome Kern's, and not just the Kern that everyone knows, but quirky little tunes that never found a place on the Hit Parade until, possibly, Friday evening.
After the show, party co-chairwoman Rivkin met Feinstein backstage and came out to report, "He's so gracious and so charming. He just loved being here." She added that Globe executive producer Craig Noel was "grinning ear to ear. He's wanted to have the annual gala at the theater for 10 years, and tonight he was proven right--it's been fabulous."