WASHINGTON, D.C. The Shakespeare Theatre Company embraced one of the Bard’s favorite destinations, Italy, as the theme for the Harman Center for the Arts gala on Sunday night. The idea to focus on a destination, as opposed to just one of his plays, enabled the company to showcase a wide variety of works and styles throughout the performance portion of the gala, chief development officer Ed Zakreski said. This variety of styles was also meant to highlight the Harman Center’s ability to host more than productions of Shakespeare, which it has done many times since opening in 2007.
As with previous galas, this year’s “Gala Shakespearissimo” was spread out over two venues, with all 700 guests beginning the evening at the Harman Center for the Arts for a cocktail reception and an award ceremony in the theater. Performances incorporated ballet, opera, musical theater, and a short scene from Much Ado About Nothing from an international cast of performers. Highlighting the award presentation was actress Annette Bening, who received the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre and showed off her classical training by performing a rousing sonnet from Romeo and Juliet during her acceptance speech.
After the performance, close to 500 of the attendees made their way to the National Building Museum for the dinner and dancing portion. While guests have typically walked along a red carpet to the museum, which is just two blocks away, heavy rain disrupted plans, and limo buses were called in to ferry the well-dressed attendees the short distance. Inside, the company set designers had created a Venetian landscape complete with a large, arched wooden bridge, which guests used to enter the main floor, and a soaring vertical cylinder in the museum’s central fountain that featured a variety of colorful Venetian-style masks and flowing iridescent fabric. The Venetian theme continued to the tables, which featured one of two centerpieces: the front and rear sections of a traditional gondola or a duo of striped mooring posts.
The remaining 200 guests, most of them members of the company’s young professionals group and under a required age limit of 40, remained at the Harman Center for the first Gala After Hours celebration. DJ Will Eastman provided the dance tracks for the three-hour party, while local gelato shop Pitango hosted a gelato bar.