Mikki Taylor and Anne DiGiovanna arrive at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood… (Alex J. Berliner / abimages )
As the star of "33 Variations" at the Ahmanson Theatre, Jane Fonda has been performing six days a week, twice a day on weekends. Instead of relaxing on her day off, she spent Monday discussing her life, career and current play with Michael Ritchie, artistic director of the Center Theatre Group, at a gathering of CTG's Artistic Director's Circle.
"Jane woke up this morning with laryngitis," Ritchie said. "She could have easily bailed on the entire evening and all of us would have understood. In fact, she should have bailed, but she didn't — and it shows the tenor of who the woman is."
Ritchie called the affair "a peek behind the scenes," a perk for upper-level donors, hosted by Eva and Marc Stern at their home in Malibu. Following cocktails and a buffet, guests gathered to hear of Fonda's theatrical experiences, which began, she said, with the play "There Was a Little Girl," in which the leading man got fired, an actor dropped dead onstage and the director had a nervous breakdown and disappeared.
"I'm grateful to all of you for making possible great theater in Los Angeles," Fonda said, "and I wanted to pay homage to you by showing up."
Among others on scene were Brindell Gottlieb, Martin Massman, Vicki King, Tim Regler, Leigh Crawford with Aza Jezyk, Judy and Tom Beckman, Debi and Norris Bishton, Louise Taper and Doug Walker, Joyce and Mal Fienberg, Kiki and David Gindler, Linda and David Shaheen, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Ava and Chuck Fries, and Christine and Kevin Crombie. The show closes Sunday.
On ascending the podium at the Feb. 25 Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Jennifer Hudson gazed out at the audience, a sea of famous faces, and thanked everyone in the room for the award she was about to receive.
"I've sat back and watched all of you, and you are what inspired me," said Hudson, an honoree, along with Angela Bassett, Viola Davis and Loretta Devine. "This is a first for me," she added, "that I've walked into an event and I actually know who everybody is."
Indeed, it was quite the star-studded crowd. Forest Whitaker, Amy Adams, Sharon Leal, Anika Noni Rose and Michael Patrick King, director of the "Sex and the City" films, came to introduce the award recipients. Kerry Washington, Kimora Lee Simmons, Serena Williams, Gabrielle Union, Garcelle Beauvais and Brandy were among the 340 invited guests.
"I'm motivated by the joy that's in this room," Bassett said. "I'm inspired by the rich wealth of talent that's here today, and I'm captivated by the vision that we have of ourselves."