Party Play: “Places, Please!” 2018 Gala – A Dazzling, Theatrical Soiree!

Beth Fhaner
 | Sep 21, 2018

On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 15, SCR’s “Places, Please!” 2018 Gala got underway at The Westin South Coast Plaza, as guests arrived through the ​private valet entrance and climbed the carpeted steps to the East Galleria. Designer Angela Balogh Calin’s red carpet-inspired theatrical vision awaited attendees, with dramatic red drapery and theatrical lighting fixtures lining both sides of the entrance, setting the tone for the excitement to come.

As guests entered the cocktail reception, their attention went to the many eye-catching posters hanging overhead that featured various SCR archival photos. Cocktail tables draped with ​garnet linens and beautiful floral arrangements by Floral Creations by Enzo also helped to set the stylish ambience. Guests enjoyed champagne sponsored by Le Grand Courtâge. The Signature Cocktail was the “Backstage Blackberry Bliss”—the blackberry martini was a hit with partygoers and featured official vodka sponsor Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Guests also indulged in tempting, tray-passed hors d’oeuvres such as ahi tuna tartare with avocado and toasted sesame seeds on a wonton crisp, petite grilled lamb chops with balsamic glaze, chilled gazpacho soup shooters and vegan risotto balls with sundried tomato.

During the cocktail reception, a “backstage” experience was on display, where actors and technicians appeared at four different stations including a Dressing Room, Costume Shop, Prop Shop and Wig Shop. Partygoers could watch the actors as they prepared for a special performance held later in the evening. The actors featured in the “backstage” experience are graduates of SCR’s Acting Intensive Program: Arthur Brueggeman, Ashley Langton, Kelsey Kato, Aaron McGee, Jonathan Murrietta and Camille Thornton-Alson. Technicians and stage management included Jyll Christolini, Denise Kha, Marcus Beebe, Sarah Timm, Allison Lowery, Ramzi Jneid and Mike Ritchey. 

Following the cocktail reception, guests then entered the Plaza Ballroom, which featured gorgeous drapery, along with an array of SCR costumes, props and photos surrounding the space, as well as a white dance floor located in the center of the room. Tables were draped with Katherine Gold linens from Wildflower Linen, with silver and champagne starburst chargers and pops of fuchsia and purple napkins—all to a stunning effect. Attendees also enjoyed gift boxes, sponsored by B. Toffee, at their tables. Additionally, the stage backdrop depicted the actual Segerstrom Stage house, so it was as if guests in the ballroom were onstage and viewing the audience from the stage, which was another unique design element.

Executive Chef Paul Gregory delighted the crowd with his tantalizing cuisine, including a deconstructed Boston wedge salad with Fourme d’Ambert ​wedge, toasted walnuts, red and golden beets, grape tomatoes and rainbow microgreens with a citrus vinaigrette dressing, as well as a duet of peppercorn-crusted tenderloin with Harveys Bristol Cream sauce and rosemary-skewered shrimp with potato dauphinoise and roasted seasonal vegetables. For a sweet finish, a flourless chocolate cake with a berry-filled white chocolate ruffle cup was a delectable treat that few partygoers could resist.

During the festive event, the approximately 200 theatre enthusiasts dined, dance and cheered greetings from Board President Sam Tang, Managing Director Paula Tomei and returning Gala Chairs Tayla Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker, who announced that the event was projected to net approximately $250,000 for SCR’s artistic and education programs.

Following the dessert course, partygoers were entertained by a performance of a special preview of SCR’s 2018-19 season. Directed by Acting Intensive Program Director Matthew Arkin, the shows represented included Sense and Sensibility, Kings, M. Butterfly, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Sweeney Todd. The performance ended on a high point with the Stephen Sondheim classic, “Putting it Together” from Sunday in the Park with George. Tom Shelton was the accompanist.

After the special performance, the raffle drawing was held onstage, and with all of the prize winners in attendance, it added an exciting element to the evening. Prize winners included Susan and Sam Anderson, who won the Inside the “Actors Studio” private acting lesson at SCR; Leslie Sullivan, who won the $1,500 South Coast Plaza gift certificate; Joanne and Andy Terner, who won the $1,000 Chloé shopping voucher and handmade leather accessory; and Lea and Harmon Kong, who won the Van Cleef & Arpels Parisian Experience.

The celebration continued as Dallas & Doll, a 5-piece dance band, performed an extended set for partygoers and guests drifted to and from the dance floor to the East Galleria, which was transformed into an intimate lounge and featured a gourmet coffee station, a sweets table donated by Gala Gift Sponsor B. Toffee and a gelato cart donated by Mangiamo Gelato Caffe. All in all, everyone agreed that it was a wonderfully successful evening—a dazzling, theatrical soiree in celebration of the theatre they supported so generously.

“I was so impressed with the detail to everything,” said Sarah McElroy. “From the table number cards, the displays in the foyer, the costumes, the decor and flowers and photos and on and on…”

“We had a fabulous time!” exclaimed Sophie Cripe. “Good food, fun and friends.”

Deirdre Kelly noted, “It was a wonderful night and a huge success!”

Olivia Johnson added, “We danced ‘til they folded up the dance floor under our feet!”

Gala Sponsor, Van Cleef & Arpels, South Coast Plaza Store Director Christine Hitz also commented, “What a spectacular event last evening! We were so happy to be a part of the occasion!”

Gala Chairs Talya Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker agreed with their fellow theatre enthusiasts. “Last night was the best SCR Gala!” they said. “We had such a good time, and the Westin ballroom was transformed into an elegant venue that was uniquely SCR.”

We’d like to extend a heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone who joined us at the Gala. All proceeds will support the theatre’s award-winning core education and outreach programs that bring the magic of live professional theatre to more than 28,000 underserved students, teachers and families throughout Orange County each year.

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