The theatrical adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse, a story of an English boy and his horse during World War I, originally debuted at the Royal National Theatre in London in November 2007 and on April 14 will make its first official appearance in the U.S. To celebrate the production's premiere, the American Associates of the Royal National Theatre followed a preview performance on April 5 with a gala at the Tent at Lincoln Center.
With some set pieces and props from the stage drama, the event's producer David Stark looked to craft a bright, whimsical decor scheme that would play up War Horse's British background, while creating an intimate environment for the 600-person dinner and auction. That entailed mixing floral pennants, string lights, and a maypole with portraits of the British monarchy, a military-style marching brass band, and miniature Union Jacks.
The marching band was among the first of the event's components, helping lead the way from the Vivian Beaumont Theater to the site of the post-show festivities, where a group of riders on horseback served as greeters. Inside, the tent was draped in a midnight blue fabric; strings of lightbulbs and pink ribbon attached to a maypole in the center formed a colorful canopy overhead. Panels styled to look like elaborately framed portraits of English kings and queens—including George V, Queen Mary, and Edward VIII—decorated the rear wall, while a large pencil drawing from the production stood on the opposite side of the stage's backdrop.
To dress the long dinner tables, Stark employed a mix of tea-party wares, hanging metal teapots from curved stands and placing floral arrangements in mismatched teapots and cups. Miniature British and American flags decorated each place setting and doubled as paddles for the evening's auction.
As an added theatrical element, the gala brought in one of the horse puppets from the show, allowing the striking piece made by the Handspring Puppet Company to mingle with the guests before signaling the start of the auction.