Press Release - Grand Illusions Gala


SCR Returns Home for Its ‘Grand Illusions’ Gala… An Evening of Extraordinary Things

COSTA MESA, CA – Saturday, September 13, 2014.  “Grand Illusions,” South Coast Repertory’s 51st Season Gala—sub-titled by Chair Olivia Johnson as “an evening of extraordinary things”—was both extraordinary and magical.  With its inspiration drawn from SCR’s production of The Tempest, which opened the 2014-15 Season and featured magic by Teller, “Grand Illusions” had its own wondrous moments.

Held on site at the Emmes/Benson Theatre Center, where the beautifully transformed terrace was covered in billowing sheer white canopies, the illusions began as party-goers arrived and were presented with mirrored compacts which opened to reveal their dinner table numbers.  After strolling through a white-carpeted “hall of mirrors,” dramatically lit with contemporary chandeliers, guests emerged to be greeted by Gala Chair Olivia Johnson and Board President Sophie Cripe, with SCR’s Artistic Director Marc Masterson and Managing Director Paula Tomei. 

The reception began on the terrace—enhanced by String Theory’s sculptured harp, a sonic installation that soared upward and over the party with its lush, compelling tones.  Guests sipped gold medal award-winning champagne by Le Grand Courtâge or the evening’s signature drink, a “smoke and mirrors martini” by Tito’s Handmade Vodka.  The party flowed from the terrace into the theatre lobby, where everyone was welcome to relax in a comfortable setting, draped in black and white, with chic white furniture and candles and scents by Diptyque.  After dinner, a dessert display was added, with macarons by Lette Macarons, the evening’s favor sponsor. 

As they moved from setting to setting, guests enjoyed a reception that was mysterious, elegant and wrapped in magic.  And—being a magical evening—it was followed by surprises.

At the conclusion of the cocktail hour, everyone gathered in the Segerstrom Stage for formal greetings and thank-yous to those who helped make the evening possible, delivered by Cripe, Tomei and Masterson, and ending with the Gala Chair who thanked her stellar committee.  “I’ve had a whirlwind several months working with the energetic and creative members of the Gala Committee,” Johnson said.  “You’ve seen the wonderful results tonight at our reception.  That’s just the beginning!  And, because the Gala is an SCR production, I want to thank everyone who helped us
produce ‘Grand Illusions.’  Thanks to them, to the committee—and to all of you—I’m happy to announce that we’ve raised more than $400,000 for SCR’s award-winning artistic and educational programs.”

Also acknowledged from the stage were community leaders who played starring roles in SCR’s ascent over the years:  George and Julianne Argryos, Past Presidents Wylie Aitken and Damien Jordan; Emeritus Trustees Olivia Johnson, Carl Neisser, Tom Rogers, Laurie Smits Staude, Socorro Vasquez, Elaine Weinberg and the Segerstrom family, represented by Anton and Jennifer.

Then Masterson announced the surprise entertainer for the evening—Mac King, dubbed as the premiere comedy magician in the world, in a special one-night-only performance for South Coast Repertory.  As if that weren’t surprise enough, his volunteer assistants, chosen from the audience to appear with him onstage, were SCR Trustee Bill Weinberg and Julianne Argyros herself. 

Following the mesmerizing magic show, guests returned to dine al fresco under the billowing white canopy, hung with smoky drapes and lit by two grand chandeliers layered in ascending strands of shimmering beads.  Tables, with see-through ghost chairs,  were set in three variations of the black and white color scheme with centerpieces uniquely and elegantly mirrored and lit.  The three course meal was catered by The Westin South Coast Plaza, with wines poured courtesy of Bluewater Grill.

As dinner concluded, Johnson—dressed in a new outfit meant exclusively for dancing—announced that the Julianne Argyros Stage had been transformed for the evening into Club Argyros and was now open.  Following the swirling lights, guests loosened ties and stepped out of high heels into a swinging after-hours cabaret with its magical, illusionary floor, especially painted for the evening, and with the addition of a gelato cart from Mangiamo Gelato Caffe.  Performers (dressed all in white) danced on platforms high above as party-goers danced below—into the night, at one of the best parties ever, in celebration of SCR.