Steppenwolf Gala Takes Inspiration From the Written Word

By Jenny Berg May 9, 2012, 3:53 PM EDT

Pages from the script hung from round chandeliers on the ceiling.

Photo: Kyle Flubacker

Steppenwolf's Gala
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The Steppenwolf Gala took place on Saturday night, with a performance at the theater and a dinner-dance at Blackhawk on Halsted. “While the overall event structure remains fairly consistent from year to year, the performance around which the gala is based changes, and that provides many opportunities for creativity and new ideas,” said director of special events Kendra Van Kempen.

This year, ensemble members acted in a few scenes from current production The March, directed by Frank Galati and based on E.L. Doctorow's novel, which is set against the backdrop of the Civil War. “Using this inspiration, our designer, Jeffrey Foster from Event Creative, transformed the venue into a world honoring the words of E.L. Doctorow and our production,” Van Kempen said.

“The design direction was very modern, which was a complete departure from last year,” Foster said. In the raw reception space, Foster and his team hung giant columns that were meant to look like script pages fanning out over the 550 guests. Text from the play was carved into the structures, and back lighting made the words glow.

More words from the script shone in the main bar surround, and the table centerpieces were illuminated lamps also decorated with snippets of text from The March.

Also new this year was a paddle raise for the Steppenwolf for Young Adults education programs. After the live auction, a 90-second video showcased “all the incredible things that the … program does for teens at Steppenwolf and in the classroom,” Van Kempen said. “Through the video, we were able to quickly capture the attention of the room and encourage support.” The paddle alone brought in $85,000, and the overall gala raised $1 million.

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