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A Tony Affair

Gala Patrons Steal Act 1 in the Case of SCR's Statuette; in Act 2, 'The Embassy Ball'

August 20, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

To preview the palace intrigue planned for its upcoming Embassy Ball, South Coast Repertory staged the theft of its Tony Award. In the spirit of Friday's event, the 120 gala patrons in attendance feigned horror at the statuette's disappearance.

The "theft" was announced at the Newport Beach home of George and Judie Argyros, honorary ball chairpersons, who held the cocktail party to thank gala patrons and underwriters for supporting SCR. Party-goers paid $5,000 to $30,000 to underwrite a table of 10 at the ball, raising more than $240,000 in underwriting proceeds.

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Plot Twist

"An embassy ball is a good place for intrigue," said Susan Kensey, who will co-chair the gala with her husband, John.

The mystery began when David Emmes, SCR's producing artistic director, stood before the crowd on the Argyros' harbor-side patio to announce that a royal courier was bringing the 1988 Tony Award, which SCR received in honor of its work as a regional theater.

The statuette--SCR's "crown jewel"--has never left the theater. As Emmes spoke, however, the disheveled courier (actor James Davis) arrived from SCR to say that the Tony Award had been stolen from him on the way to the party.

"SCR must reveal its most important secrets or you will never see Tony again," Davis said.

"This is no laughing matter," said Emmes, who then drew laughter by having Judie Argyros pretend to call 911.

The mystery will be solved Sept. 28, the night of the Embassy Ball, at the Westin South Coast Plaza. That evening, patrons will wear sashes and medals of honor that were displayed during the cocktail party.

"We want it to feel upscale and elegant but not stuffy," said Cliff Faulkner, SCR's resident scene designer, who lends a hand with the gala decor.

"We want it to have the look of a state dinner."

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Royal Fanfare

Party patrons were already having a ball with the embassy theme by addressing each other by royal titles.

"Empress" Argyros, who looked regal in a green and white floral dress, handled her role gracefully despite the fact that power to her Harbor Island home had been shut down for four hours before the party.

"We had flashlights in all of the bathrooms," she said. "The power went on just three minutes before the party started."

Guests would never have suspected anything was amiss given the immaculate surroundings. They first mingled on the patio, enjoying cocktails and hors d'oeuvres of grilled leg of lamb salad, red pepper fritters with lox, tempura and flank steak, all prepared by Ann Dryer Catering.

Many wandered around the home admiring antique tapestries, custom floral rugs, billowy curtains and elegant, upholstered furnishings.

"Judie has lovely taste. Each time you think her home can't get any lovelier, it does," said Olivia Johnson, underwriting chairwoman, who attended with her husband, Andy.

Finding gala patrons "wasn't terribly difficult," Johnson said. "People want to support this theater."

About 450 guests are expected to attend the Embassy Ball.

Among the guests were Martin Benson, SCR's artistic director (a.k.a., the "Duke of Drama"); Mark and Barbara Johnson; Tom and Joyce Tucker; Don and Dorothy Kennady; David and Dolores Barr; Steve and Trish Frohling; Larry and Dee Higby; Frank and Marilyn Lynch; Gerald Von Gemert; Jon Madison; Catherine McLarand; Dennis Morin; Diane Cruzen; Ned and Ellen Olivier; Christina Snyder; Catherine Thyen; and Ernesto and Socorro Vasquez.

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