Barry Meyer, center, was an honoree at the Geffen Playhouse's March… (Alex J. Berliner / Berliner…)
At the grand opening gala for "Ecosystems" at L.A.'s California Science Center, Al Roker of NBC's "Today Show" reminded the audience of the museum's value in inspiring young minds and generating a new generation of scientists.
"The next cure for cancer, the next breakthrough in hydroelectricity and renewable resources," Roker said. "Who knows what a kid might get from the California Science Center?"
En route to the 11 environments, the crowd of 700 at the March 20 event indulged in eco-friendly appetizers, which were "all sustainable, fished responsibly," said Susan Feniger, co-owner of the Border Grill.
Guests saw flash floods racing through a desert and 1,500 fish maneuvering through a 188,000-gallon kelp tank. In addition, there were interactive, hands-on exhibits throughout the 45,000-square-foot space.
Cindy Chvatal-Keane, producer of TV's " CSI," said, "I get letters from children who now think science is cool." She has already brought 60 children to the new exhibition.
The dinner tent was illuminated by projections of kelp gardens and fixtures looking like giant jellyfish. Suzanne Wright, gala co-chair with Wallis Annenberg, noted the appropriate nature of the décor, calling the museum, "an oasis in the desert. It's an island in the very vast sea."
After dessert, some party-goers watched a double-feature at the IMAX theater: "The Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D" and "Hubble 3D." Fritz Coleman, NBC's weathercaster, stuck around for the space film. "Amazing," he said.
‘Backstage at the Geffen'
Prior to the start of "Backstage at the Geffen," the host committee for the March 22 fundraiser joined honorees Barry Meyer and Kristin Chenoweth for a private dinner at Ninethirty at the W Los Angeles-Westwood Hotel. Meyer is chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros.; Chenoweth is a Tony and Emmy award-winning actress.
"This is the first time I came to an event where I don't have to sing for my supper," the actress said. "Tonight I just get to eat."
Clint Eastwood, there to present Meyer's award, said that although he is not a theater actor, "I am supportive of all actors — acting is acting."
Event committee chair Pamela Robinson Hollander attributed the night's popularity, particularly among the actors who donate their time, to a passion for the theater and a high comfort level at this one. "It's a night they can totally be themselves and just feel like they're part of the Geffen family," she said.
Dick Van Dyke said, "I beg them to let me come back each year to perform."
Following dinner, an open-air trolley whisked people to the Geffen Playhouse for the presentations, performances and off-the-record, behind-the-scenes stories of Hollywood. Other participants included Alan Cumming, Rita Wilson, Sharon Lawrence, Beau Bridges, French Stewart, Hank Azaria, Ashley Brown, Christina Applegate, violinist Sarah Chang and Matthew Morrison.
As a surprise to the night's host, producing director Gil Cates, Wilson announced — on behalf of board Chairman Frank Mancuso and the board of directors — that the main stage would henceforth be known as the "Gil Cates Theater."
At the post-performance reception, as he gazed at the wall bearing his name, Cates said, "I'm really stunned. But I have to say it looks good."
Cindy and Alan Horn and Marilyn and John Wells served as honorary co-chairs of the event, which netted $500,000 for the theater's education and outreach programs.