Lookingglass Theatre Benefit Gets Enchanted-Forest Feel, Ephemeral Theme: Change

By Jenny Berg March 8, 2012, 1:42 PM EST

Photo: Robert Carl

Lookingglass Theatre's 2012 Gglassquerade
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Last year, individual tickets to the Lookingglass Theatre's Gglassquerade gala sold for $600 each. This year, tickets were sold in $2,500 pairs. “The organization has an overall contributed-income goal that is 20 percent higher than last year,” said fund-raising events coordinator Sarah Gehrki, who planned the gala with director of development Jennifer Bienmann. “Gglassquerade is part of that strategy.” With 315 guests and a $600,000 take, this year's Saturday event at the W Chicago City Center “beat last year's goal by 10 percent,” Gehrki said.

A new ticket price wasn't the only change. “The theme for Lookingglass's 2011-2012 subscription season is 'In just one moment, everything changed,' and that theme also happened to describe the experience our chairs wanted guests to enjoy,” Gehrki said. The season's tagline comes from the plays, which depict pivotal moments in history.

The thematic sentence peppered the evening's speeches, including one from theater co-founder David Schwimmer, who gave the Lookingglass Spirit Award to actor John Mahoney. After speakers uttered the line, PSAV technicians switched the color of the lighting in the ballroom. Round, mirror-top dinner tables reflected the shifting colors of pink, green, and blue. Additionally, guests who bid on raffle prizes received illuminated mood rings that continually flashed different hues.

The concept of change also shaped the evening's entertainment. Celebrity chef Rick Bayless, who will star in the theater's upcoming production Cascabel, attended the event and addressed the crowd. To give guests a taste of his show, two quick-change artists from Las Vegas put on a special performance that involved a rapid-fire succession of costume swaps.

“Our artistic components happen only the night of Gglassquerade,” Gehrki said. “From David Schwimmer's salute to John Mahoney to the Las Vegas circus artists who created a special performance for the evening, Lookingglass sets the bar extremely high for itself from an artistic standpoint, and we have enjoyed the benefits of that rigor." 

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