On Monday, bartenders working in the Auditorium Theatre’s lobby shook up martinis for some of Chicago’s most loyal theater patrons and the performers they pay to see. For the League of Chicago Theatres’ Showtime gala—held on a Monday night, when most theaters are dark, so that actors could attend—everyone from the resident cast of Jersey Boys to Saturday Night Live alum Tim Kazurinksy donned black-tie attire and headed to the downtown theater.
Getting actors to dress up on their night off (kind of like a busman’s holiday) was easy, according to gala chair Diana Martinez, who also serves as executive director of Aurora's Paramount Theatre. “First and foremost, this event is a fund-raiser for the League of Chicago Theatres,” she said. “But it’s also about networking. In the theater industry, everyone’s so busy. It’s hard for us all to get together. So events like this are fun—it’s nice for us all to see each other.”
The theatrical glad-handing began during a cocktail hour in the lobby that stayed on theme—think a “Lights, Camera, Action” martini (made with lemon-flavored vodka) and a silent auction that featured director's chairs designed by local theater companies. The chairs ranged from relatively simple pieces, like Chicago Dramatists’ white chair adorned with lacquered scripts from seasons past, to imaginatively wacky takes, like Remy Bumppo’s lighting-system- and faux-cupcake-accented version.
Before Martinez took over the planning for the benefit (2008 was her second year as chair), the event was, in essence, a cocktail hour. “But I wanted to make it a more formal affair,“ she said, “so I thought we should make it a sit-down dinner.” Aiming for an elegant dinner in a unique locale, Martinez set her sites on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre. “The venue is perfect for this event because of its history, its beauty, and its size,” she explained.
To create an evening feel for the 350 guests, Martinez hung a brass chandelier over round tables and created a blue, violet, and pink lighting scheme. (“You need to mix in pink so that people don't look blue when the light shines on them,” she explained.) A separate bar and a wine-and-truffles table sponsored by Chocolate Grape (a new Wicker Park café) flanked the onstage tables.
During the Blue Plate-catered dinner of grilled tenderloin and orange-scented green beans, the league presented three awards honoring key players on the local scene. Between presentations, cast members from Second City, Jersey Boys, and The Drowsy Chaperone entertained guests with brief performances. “It was great to have singing, acting, and comedy in one night,” Martinez said, though she admitted that coordinating all the performers’ schedules was the greatest challenge of her eight-month planning process.