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Scene & Heard

All for a good cause

Jason Alexander and Steven Weber spice up a benefit for breast cancer research; Michael Jackson's memory permeates a benefit for local HIV/AIDS charities.

October 04, 2009|Ellen Olivier

After murdering her children in Euripides' classic "Medea," Annette Bening, with husband Warren Beatty, helped celebrate the launch of UCLA Live's Eighth International Theatre Festival at the play's opening-night party.

No matter that the play is nearly 2,500 years old, "the same issues are with us," including "disposability of women," said guest Claudia Weill, a director who explored women's issues in her films "Girlfriends" and "It's My Turn."

Alan Schwartz, president of the Royce Center Circle, which supports UCLA's performing arts, said that although the university has presented plays for eight years, "Medea" was the first original production to be created by the UCLA Live series.

"This is the first time we've ever produced a play from scratch," said David Sefton, director of UCLA Live.

'What a Pair!'

"We knew we'd have to do the show in drag," Jason Alexander said at the VIP party after the program at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. He and Steven Weber had just performed as Jacie and Steffie in "What a Pair!," the until-this-year all-female revue to benefit breast cancer research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Though the cause is no joking matter, guests such as Kim Raver of "24" and "Lipstick Jungle" said they enjoyed the show's humor most of all.

Jo Levi DiSante said she originated the fundraiser to cheer up her mother and sister, who were both diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Although conceived as an amateur production of female duets (hence the name: "What a Pair!"), she discovered there was no shortage of celebrities willing to participate. Guests also included Margie Petersen, whose foundation last year contributed $15 million to the John Wayne Cancer Institute and St. John's Health Center.

Fighting HIV/AIDS

Michael Jackson's memory permeated this year's Macy's and American Express Passport to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles, Project Angel Food and other local HIV/AIDS charities. In addressing the crowd, Liz Taylor's first words were, "As my beloved friend Michael said, 'We are the world,' and it is up to us. It is our responsibility to take care of those who are sick and dying in this country, and particularly in Africa."

Nearly 2,000 guests converged on Santa Monica Airport for the fashion show and pre-show reception, where donors mingled with celebrities, La Toya Jackson among them.

"I'm very interested in continuing the work my brother did," she said. "There are millions and millions of good causes, and Michael gave to a lot of them, but this was something he cared a lot about."

Jim Arnone, APLA's board chairman, discussed the importance of prevention, making last week's news about a possible vaccine the talk of party-goers. "In this area, there is so little good news that has come out of science," said Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's. "We love to hear good news."


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