On Monday night the lights were ablaze and the stars shined at the Shakespeare Theatre GALA honoring Michael Kahn’s 25 years as Artistic Director. Michael was hired when they were struggling to stay alive at the Folger Library. Michael’s vision not only built the Shakespeare Theatre into the world renowned company it is today but also led the renaissance of downtown D.C. He moved the company to the Lansburgh theatre before anyone else saw the potential of that area and today its home includes the glittering Harman Hall.
Tributes from Edward Albee to Terrance McNally told of his brilliance and contributions to the arts and to their careers. McNally told stories about he and Michael’s time at Columbia University including the plays they did there and Michael finding this young first time set designer to work with them by the name of Andy Warhol. McNally told of Michael being the gay blade about town even back then. Watching Michael take a play and work with actors to mold it to perfection is quite a thrill.
Michael was head of the drama department at Julliard and still returns to NY to teach master classes. He has directed productions around the world including Elizabeth Ashley on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and a recent Dallas Opera Company production of Romeo and Juliet.
Beautiful Harman Hall was aglow with the stars who saluted Michael. They included Stacy Keach, Pat Carroll, Rene Auberjonois, Nancy Robinette, Denyse Graves, Harry Hamlin, Patrick Stewart, Kelly McGillis, Floyd King, Richard Thomas, Bradley Whitford, and a favorite of mine the very hot and charming Jeffrey Carlson who played Hamlet at the Shakespeare in 2007. There were a host of other celebrities including Chelsea Clinton who spoke movingly of what Michael and the Shakespeare Theatre meant to her during her high school years in DC and still today. Donald Graham, Chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Company spoke and then read a proclamation from the Mayor declaring October 17th Michael Kahn Day in the District of Columbia. Former Congresswoman Jane Harman spoke of what the theatre meant to her late husband Sidney, and how he loved Harman Hall, and there was a short film of Sidney himself talking about his love of the Arts.
The actors performed in a 90 minute production which included Joffrey Ballet leading dancers Fabrice Calmals and April Daly who did a breathtakingly beautiful piece from Othello, A Dance in Three Acts. The entire performance was directed by the talented Alan Paul.
Seen at the reception prior to the show, and at the dinner dance afterwards held at the beautiful building museum were; Supreme Court Justices, Alito, Scalia, Kagan and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Also there were former Congressman Phil Sharp (D-IN), Tom Downey (D-NY) and his beautiful wife the Hon. Carol Browner (former Clinton Administration EPA Administrator and Environmental Czar for President Obama), Williams and Connolly senior partner Dan Katz, Orrick Attorney and Shakespeare Theatre Board member Pauline Schneider, Former Mayor Anthony Williams, Governor William Weld and Leslie Marshall, and DC City Councilmembers’ Jack Evans and Tommy Wells. Being thanked from the stage by Michael were his friend and former assistant of ten years Steven Mazzola who was there with his partner Dr. Jeffrey Akman, and Michael’s best friend John Hill. Michael made sure that the youth were well represented and invited many of the young actors including the 7 new acting fellows to the building museum to join in the festivities.
The GALA is the theatre’s biggest benefit of the year and supports their education programs. It was chaired by Miguel and Patricia Estrada and Anita Antenucci. It was truly a night to remember.