Steppenwolf Theatre Gala Decor Evokes Dilapidated Hotel

By Jenny Berg May 17, 2011, 11:10 AM EDT


Steppenwolf Theatre Gala
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One of Chicago's most high-profile fund-raisers, the Steppenwolf Theatre gala rakes in $1,000 per ticket and draws well-known actors and local political figures. But sleekness was intentionally absent from the look of this year's May 7 iteration. Director of special events Kendra Van Kempen worked with Lori Dimun, director of events management, and co-chairs Carole L. Brown, Kenneth J. Porrello, Michael R. Salem, and Stephanie B. Smith to plan the benefit, which drew more than 550 guests and raised nearly $1 million.  

The evening began with a selection of scenes from the company's current production of Lanford Wilson's The Hot L Baltimore. The play's setting, a once regal, now past its prime hotel, inspired the decor for the after-party, which took over the raw space Blackhawk on Halsted. The venue, just down the street from the theater, kept planners on their toes.

“By using a nontraditional space that had the potential for lease options, we were waiting for a final confirmation on the space's availability until the last week of February,” Van Kempen said. “We had a full contingency plan in place just in case Blackhawk on Halsted was leased at the time of our gala.” Ultimately, the space remained available, and very raw—leaving vendors with their work cut out for them.

Event Creative handled decor for the first time this year. “Our design vision was to let guests enjoy dinner and dancing in an exaggerated interpretation of the [fictional] Hotel Baltimore,” designer Jeffrey Foster said. “Much like the hotel and people guests were introduced to in the play, regal and elegant design lived side by side with impending destruction” at the after-party.

Worn red velvet furniture filled scattered lounge areas, and custom chandeliers mimicked the look of lighting fixtures in old hotel ballrooms. Custom column surrounds had peeling wallpaper and exposed boards, and the dance floor got a vintage-style checkerboard pattern.

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