Suspense! Plot twists! Glamorous women in lovely costumes! Duels! Mysterious characters entering from the audience to make audacious pronouncements! And that was just the live auction.
One key to fund-raising success seems to be free-flowing alcohol. The Rep’s Theater Appreciation Night Gala had as much Balleto Vineyards wine as you could want and a keg of Lagunitas IPA. (The Sig-O was pleased to see that). The Ives Park event was well under way when we got there at five forty-five. The auction started about seven, and the Three Musketeers raised curtain about seven-thirty.
The Rep got a $25,000 NEA grant to provide live theater in middle schools and high schools. The grant is a matching grant and the Rep needed to raise the first $25,000 to collect the NEA funds. With all the cuts to schools, the things that bring mathematics and reading to life, things that inspire kids to learn, are gone, and programs like this are the remaining slender lifeline to real education, so this event was important as well as fun. Tickets were higher than usual, and I added a donation when I purchased mine, just to support the Theater in the Schools program.
Jennifer King, the assistant artistic director, and one of the staff, a vivacious blond woman in a slinky green dress, started off the auction. The one thing in the catalogue that had tempted me was the first lot, a set of ten fencing lessons from En Garde Fencing School. I was going to bid but the Sig-O reminded me that sharp objects and I don’t always play well together. I didn’t bid, but the lessons were very popular and started the auction off with just the right degree of frenzy.
Several flights of wine were auctioned off. After the initial couple of lots, the excitement began to plateau, so Scott Phillips, artistic director, began driving up the bidding. One wine flight ignited a bidding war between two people almost directly across the aisle from one another.
They auctioned off wine tastings and food and wine pairings for ten people each, and then they got to the big ticket items; a week at a vacation home in Ashland, Oregon, a Sun Trek hiking/camping tour of the Grand Canyon, and a week in Paris. By now the crowd was screaming. Once the formal lots were done, a woman stood up and said that if the audience in total donated one thousand dollars, she would match it. Hands shot up through the audience. Mine was one of them. A man at the back said that if the three other people donated one thousand, he would also. Scott pounced on that and broke it down to this; if six other people donated five hundred each, the man would match the thousand. Hands stayed up. They got the thousand for the woman’s match, and the three thousand for the man’s match. Scott announced that they had reached their goal. If everyone honors their pledge, they have the $25,000.
If I had a complaint about this part of the event it would be that the food was not plentiful. Looking back in the light of morning, I think that may be strategic. The Sig-O and I each had one savory gallette, a pastry filled with softened onion, mushroom, herbs, spices and a tiny bit of Brie cheese. I’m used to gallettes being fruit-filled but this was a pleasant change and added a contrast to my Balleto rose.
After all the money-spending and fun, the play began. This is a new play, based on Dumas’s novels, and I’ll say more about it in my next post. Here’s a teaser, though; audience participation was high!