Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hob-nobbing at the Gala

Sunday night I ended my theatre career by working the Annual Gala at Ford's Theatre in downtown DC. Ford's does one of these every year around this time, and it's pretty much a D.C. society event. Aside from the theaterati of DC the attendees included CEOs from companies like Lockheed Martin and DHL as well as politicians like Senator Bill Frist, the First Lady Laura Bush and President Bush.

Most of my actual work was prior to the performance. I was all decked out in my rented tux, standing about halfway down the block in case people attending the show managed to get lost between the corner and the front door. Since the president was attending, security was high. The road was blocked off to all vehicles and after a certain point your name had to be on the list to even walk on the block. Secret Service guards, Park Police Officers, and DC Police were stationed all over the place. The freakiest part was seeing the Park Police snipers arriving, in layers of teflon and carrying extremely heavy bags of surveillance equipment and weaponry. I was stationed with a DC Police Officer, and we chatted a bit making fun of all the fashion boo boos people made. Being a fashion illiterate guy I didn’t notice many myself, but she was quick to point out what did and did not work for each person. She was a nice person and I was grateful to have her their with me to help pass the time.

The performance itself was entertaining in a variety show kind of way. Tom Selleck hosted, and acts ranged from comedians like Kevin Nealon to musical acts like Lonestar, Heather Medley and Renee Olstead. The highlight for many was Steve Bridges, a professional George Bush impersonator. I give him a lot of credit for doing his act with his target sitting right there in the audience. He wasn’t insulting, really. Just playing off Bush's now legendary lack of public speaking skills. Bush himself spoke briefly at the end, and seemed to take it well by saying he was a really good looking guy but could probably do with some more public speaking. None of the musical acts blew me away but none were bad, either. My favorite was probably a song performed by Kevin Clay and Mike Mainwaring; they sang "Why Am I Me" from the musical Shenandoah. They were talented, and I was probably mostly impressed because they were kids and sang with a fair level of power and commitment. If any are really interested, it was filmed for television and will air on various ABC stations on July 4---because of this, there were numerous references to Independence Day and fireworks.

Below here are two really crappy photos from inside the theatre. I was seated in the very last row of the Balcony, so the quality is not the best. The first is just a shot to give a general impression of what the set looked like. The second shot shows the very end of the evening, right after that talent gathered all together on the stage and took a bow. Bush impersonator Steve Bridges is the one with gray hair, and the other is not a two-faced demon but a poor image of Gil Cates, producer for the program.

Most of the guests and talent were invited to a dinner at the Reagan Building after the performance. Unfortunately the deluge of Sunday night started right before the performance ended (for those outside the area we’ve been under assault with rain storms the last few days….this particular storm brought 6 inches of rain in two hours in some areas). But instead of heading to the dinner people huddled in the stairwells and doorways, hoping the rain would stop. My friends and I braved the continuous downpour and made the 4 block walk, getting pretty well soaked despite our umbrellas. Although about 400 guests were expected, I’d guess maybe 100 actually made it. Which only left more cream pies, coffee and red wine for me, so I was quite happy. The highlight for the dinner for me, aside from the food, was looking two tables behind me and seeing Kevin Nealon sitting there with his wife. I’m used to seeing well known politico types around DC, but not film and tv stars. It didn’t feel quite real.

I’ll be back to the regular programming of reviews and more arts-related stuff soon.


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