Every now and then, I'm reminded of just how many extremely talented people call Baton Rouge home. That was the case last week when I attended preview parties for Theatre Baton Rouge and the Louisiana International Film Festival.
Fire-eaters greeted guests of Theatre Baton Rouge’s debut Season Preview Party on March 10 hosted by Whitney Vann and husband Robert Schneckenbuger. What a way to add some drama to the occasion!
Among those guests were Beth Courtney and daughter Julia Moore, Ryn Jones, Albert Nolan, Shannon and Alfred Kimble, Lynn Coxe Graham, Dorsey Peek and Kim Duncan.
The formal portion of the evening had Clay Donaldson welcoming guests with a rendition of “Money Makes the World Go Round,” from TBR’s current production of “Cabaret.” Artistic Director Jenny Ballard and music director Terry Bowman announced TBR’s 2018-2019 season, which opens with the summer’s musical “Mamma Mia.” The Capital Series season also includes “Little Shop of Horrors,” which was introduced by Brandy Johnson’s impressive performance of “Feed Me, Seymour”; “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”; the regional premiere of "Silent Sky”; and “Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Exciting things are also planned for TBR’s Young Actors, which is bringing “Thoroughly Modern Millie” to the main stage; and for the City Series, underwritten by John Turner and Jerry Fischer. Celeste Veillion left us wanting more after she sang “Days & Days” from the City Series’ upcoming production of “Fun Home.”
The live theater gang wasn’t the only ones hosting a party, so was the film crowd. Claire and Rich Major rolled out the welcome mat to their home on March 8 for Trailer Preview Party. Guests got to see snippets from the upcoming Louisiana International Film Festival and an engrossing scene from HBO’s “Westworld” starring Claire's brother, Louis Herthum.
“After many years of hard work in Hollywood, my brother has finally made it ... being naked in front of Anthony Hopkins,” quipped Claire, eliciting laughter from everyone, including Louis.
I have to confess, this was the first time I’d seen anything from “Westworld,” so my favorite Louis performance is the Toyota commercial that debuted in the 2017 Super Bowl. It made me tear up every time. Louis says it made him get a little weepy eyed, too. It was fun to get the inside story of how he got that part — a blue-collar guy who can show emotion.
It was also fun to visit with producer John Hardy and wife Karen, André Moreau, Sonya and Sailor Jackson, Nita Laverdet, Ann Guercio, Carole and Charlie Lamar, Laurie Aaronson, LIFF Executive Director Chesley Heymsfield and, of course, our hosts.
The LIFF runs from April 19-22 at Cinemark Theatre in Perkins Rowe. For a complete list of this year’s movies, visit lifilmfest.org.
City Year Gala
Before heading to the Majors' home, I popped in at City Year’s School House Rock Gala at the Capital Hilton. This year’s event honored AT&T for its support of City Year. On hand to accept the award was AT&T Louisiana President Sonia Perez.
The several hundred guests also heard from Congressman Garret Graves, City Year Regional Vice President Ryann Denham, board Chairwoman Laura Poché, Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain and City Year AmeriCorps members and teachers.
Denim & Diamonds
Friday night had several hundred folks partying at L'Auberge at the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation’s annual Denim & Diamonds Hope for a Cure Gala. Among them were my great lunch mates — Helen Graf, Jane Shank, Kristi Robique, Sherry McBeath and Marcelle Solomon. I also got to catch up with Susan Love, Abby Hamilton, Cheryl Teske, Layne McDaniel, Heather Kleinpeter, Erin and Scott Uffman, Frances Bennett and Denny Bass.
While everyone visited and shopped the silent auction, which included a Willie Nelson-autographed guitar, we noshed on tasty hors d’oeuvres served up by Another Broken Egg, Beausoleil, BRQ, City Port, Culinary Productions, Cupcake Allie, Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, Mansurs on the Boulevard, Mike Anderson’s Seafood, Phil’s Oyster Bar, Ruffino’s, TJ Ribs and Tsunami.
Earlier that day, I joined this year’s Dancing for Big Buddy Star Dancers, professionals, committee and staff for the traditional Trash Talk Luncheon, hosted by former Star Dance Leo Verde at Sullivan’s Steakhouse. Chairwoman Kris Cangelosi and Executive Director Gaylynne Mack said this year’s event will be dedicated to the late Terri Serio, who came up with the idea for Dancing for Big Buddy 12 years ago. That was the last serious moment of the luncheon.
Antoinette Patterson, the first Star Dancer to introduce herself and describe her dance, fired the first salvo by throwing down the gauntlet. Picking it up and running with it were fellow dancers Johnnie Bond, Steve David, Dawn Starns, Kristy McKearn, Steve Sherman, Mat Laborde, Melissa Terito, Brandon Saho, Gina Laird, Michael Uffman, James Peltier and the husband-and-wife-team of Manisha and Rubin Patel.
So, circle April 28 on your calendar. After hearing this group boast about their dancing/fundraising skills, you want to make sure you’re at the P-MAC for this year’s Dancing for Big Buddy.
On the Move
The week started off at the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s On the Move luncheon March 7 at the newly refurbished Marriott. Everyone who was there left inspired by keynote speaker Laurie Maas’ story. After being diagnosed with MS in 2005, she has taken part in two Iron Man competitions and will compete in her third in November. She gave a lot of credit for her stamina to her parents, Dr. Gerald and Joan Berenson, who were celebrating their 67th anniversary.
We also saw a touching and funny video starring luncheon chairwoman Jennifer McGehee about her fight to stay “forever in heels." Jennifer had the honor of presenting this year’s Person on the Move award to Jamie Burgess, a 21-year MS patient who has served on the Walk MS and On the Move luncheon committees.
Serving on this year’s committee were Robin Baker, Christina Carville, Joey Crifasi, Brittney Kean, Karen Lambert, Carolyn Moore, Dr. Katherine Pearce, Mina Raymond, Alice Regan, Connie Smith and Linda Vannoy. WAFB meteorologist Diane Deaton served as mistress of ceremonies.