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The Play's the Thing

All the world was a stage at the 14th annual California Shakespeare Theater’s Gala Flamenco last month at the Rotunda Building in Oakland. A sold-out crowd donned their Ole! finest to play upon the stage in support of this award-winning theater.

The evening honored longtime and generous supporters George and Sue Bruns; in addition to raising a healthy $350K (in an ailing economy) for the theater’s Bay Area arts education programs.

Guests were abuzz over a season highlight: Stage-and-screen actress Marsha Mason stars in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days which will be directed by her pal, CalShakes Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone.

The season kicks-off on May 27 at CalShakes’ outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda with that ol’ Shakespearean chestnut, Romeo and Juliet.

But under Moscone’s leadership (which includes a rotating roster of other dynamic directors), the Bard’s works (as well as more modern fare by other renown playwrights) become such stuff as (theatrical) dreams are made on.

“Jon always comes up with new ways of imagining and viewing Shakespeare,” said CalShakes Associate Artist Julie Eccles, who will play the role of Lady Capulet. “He has a great vision that is always unique.”

CalShakes Associate Artist Julie Eccles, Michael Patrick Gaffney and CalShakes Associate Artist Lynne Soffer

Back at the gala, the lively live auction had Moscone breaking a sweat. And not just because he was concerned that enough funds were raised in support of local schools.

“I was so thankful I was outbid on a Miro lithograph,” said Moscone, relieved. “I waved my paddle to get the bid going and all of the sudden, I was in for $7,500! So I put on my best puppy dog eyes and pleaded across the room for someone to outbid me.”

That someone? Lucky winner Anne Gattis.

CalShakes Board Member Simon Baker offered up a two-part package: a day of wine-tasting at the ultra-excloo Napa Valley Reserve, of which he is a member, as well as a case of Napa Valley Reserve Red.

Lynn and Len Epstein scored the case; the tasting was won for $5K by Brad Miller, a loyal (and wise) colleague who works at Baker Avenue Asset Management. Which is owned by one Simon Baker.

The hottest ticket of the night? A chance to be a guest at one of the last segment’s of this season’s Dancing With the Stars. Loyal CalShakes supporter Sharon Simpson gamely stared down a roomful of 300 gala-goers, daring them to take this prize from her.

The only guest not cowed by Simpson? Columbia Cosmetics founder-owner Rachel Rendel.

But Simpson triumphed with an $8,500 bid. And just like those Dancing stars, Moscone leapt across the room and gracefully scooped up Simpson, who exulted: “I’ve always wanted to see Dancing With the Stars!

However, the most heartfelt moment of the auction belonged to the Fund-a-Need for CalShakes’ arts programs in local schools.

Orinda Intermediate School Principal Michael Randall and Fruitvale Elementary teacher Claire Stoermer (who also happens to be CalShakes House Manager) delivered impassioned testimonials regarding the powerful effects of CalShakes' Artistic Learning programs on their students.

Quicker than you can say, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” $65K was handily raised for this future feast of languages.

P.S. Check out this scintillating interview with Jonathan Moscone by The Chronicle’s Sam Whiting.

Check out the photos below.

 

Jill Lenahan and Ben Nakamura-Bush

Emily Morrison, CalShakes Executive Committee Member Jim Roethe and his wife, Nita Roethe

Dr. Harvey Glasser and his wife, Gail Glasser

May Bartus, Candis Cleveland and Amy Watson

Peter and Caroline Read

Julie and Ken Erwin

Karin Johnston and her husband, SF Arts Commission President PJ Johnston

Janie Green, Bruce Lieberman, Jonathan Moscone and Jeff Green

CalShakes Board Member Terry Bush and his wife, Sandra Nakamura-Bush

David and Kate Cost