Rep Revelry

The Windsor Court’s Chinoiserie Ballroom was the site and the setting for the recent Southern Rep Gala that staged cocktails and a silent auction, formal dinner and a live dinner, hosting by Mandy Zirkenbach, accompaniment by Harry Mayronne Jr., and special appearances by the cast of “Boudin,” and Arts Education Program Students. “Boudin: The New Orleans Music Project” was Southern Rep’s penultimate production: “Detroit” by Lisa D’Amour is currently on the boards.

Laurels were bestowed during the gala. Take a bow, 2015 honorees: WWOZ (and staffers Melanie Merz and Crystal Gross) for the Young Guard Award; Shelly and Benay Bernstein, long-term subscribers, as Supporters of the Year; and, for the Excellence in Leadership Award, Bruce Gordon, “part of the Southern Rep family since its inception in 1986.” Bruce and spouse Melissa bought the very first season tickets sold by the young theater organization.

Melaine Merz accepted WWOZ’s award and Linda Mauskopf represented the absent Bernsteins to receive their award.

Further notables were SR producing artistic director Aimee Hayes, board President Richard Lee Mathis, Treasurer J. Kerry Clayton with Paige Royer, Secretary Renee Zack, past President Dr. Bernard Jaffe with Marlene, and event Chairwoman Susan Sarason-Pence with George Pence. Also, City Councilman-at-Large Jason Williams, Larry and Nina Pugh, Patrick and Betsy Dowling, Bruce Lowry, Juliet Laughlin and dozens more, such as SR’s Laura Friedmann for Arts Education program remarks and Andrew Ward, who directed the live auction.

Butler-passed hors d’oeuvres were the prelude to the sit-down dinner that started with a pre-set salad (a menu item that’s become more and more popular), which was followed by a main course of filet mignon and a dessert of Bananas Foster bread pudding.

All the while, the performers regaled the audience with exciting program numbers, starting with Mandy’s rendition of “I’m Just a Square in the Social Circle” and concluding with the bounty of “Boudin.”

Honoring Clients’ Loved Ones

Betty Anne Waters was 29 years old when her brother, Kenny, was wrongly convicted of murder in Ayer, Massachusetts. He swore he was innocent, and Betty Anne vowed to do everything to help overturn his wrongful conviction, even putting herself through law school in her pursuit. Kenny was released in March 2001 after Betty Anne and the Innocence Project won DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene.

Flash forward to springtime 2015 in the Crescent City at The Cannery, where Betty Anne Waters was the keynote speaker at the 14th anniversary gala of the Innocence Project New Orleans. The evening included a round of cocktails, catered buffet dinner, open bar, silent auction, and dancing. And, of course, a host of important stories.

The gala’s theme was Honoring Our Clients’ Loved Ones. Hailed were the men and women who have stood tirelessly by IPNO clients during years of wrongful conviction, as well as after they are freed and have commenced the rebuilding of their lives.

Among the features of the gala that numbered almost 300 attendees (including more than 70 freed, innocent clients and their loved ones) were purveyors Jacques-Imo’s and Café Degas, and for libations, The Rusty Nail and Pal’s Lounge, among others. Charvet’s Garden Center lent centerpieces, George Ingmire deejayed, and 70-plus silent auction items lured the crowd. Choice offerings included Saints tickets, a trip to Florida, a framed watercolor by James Steg, and a catered dinner for 10 with Sister Helen Prejean of “Dead Man Walking” renown.

Among those breaking bread were IPNO board Chairwoman M. Lizabeth Talbott with husband Galen Brown, the above City Councilman Jason Williams, Derwyn Bunton, Steve and Janet Haedicke, retired Judge Calvin Johnson, IPNO director Emily Maw and spouse Robert McDuff, Simone Levine with husband Will Harrell, Allison and Robert Hjortsberg, and IPNO managing director Jene O’Keefe Trigg. To mention a few.

More numbers came into play with the lighting of 535 candles. According to Jene, “one for each year our Innocent clients spent wrongly incarcerated.”

Cork Caper

A wine time was had by all who gathered in City Park’s Pavilion of the Two Sisters at the invitation of Merrill Lynch and Republic National Distributing Company for a special wine tasting to raise funds (fun, too) to support historic City Park. Labeled “Cork in the Park,” it was the fete’s 10th anniversary.

The site was decorated with white, silver and gold balloons along with complementary floral arrangements to create a lovely ambiance. Auction excitement and the music of the Scott Sanders Quartet added further attractive aspects. All the while such wines as Superior Oak, Jordan and Mer-Soleil added palate pleasures, as did some top champagnes, including Mumm and Piper-Heidsieck.

Milling about in the grape gathering were event Chairmen Penny Whitehead and R.K. Hoddinott, Co-Chairwoman Shelley Hoddinott, Richard Rodriguez, Caroline Sobolewski, Paul Ribka and Rhonda Bruno, all meriting special thanks along with the above hosting forces and contributor Tabasco.

More in the lively lot of 325 were Kay McArdle and Joe Handlin, Chickie and John Martin, Dennis and Kathleen Pons, Eve and Barry Baroni, Pam Lupin, Dr. and Mrs. Ronald Nichols, Dan and Jennifer Poulin, and Kay Sloan. “Cork” was the come-on and cause, the altruistic effect.

Around and About

“Happy 100” was the rally for hours of on-site well-wishing to hail a century for The Columns Hotel. Beaming with “birthday” delight were Columns owners Claire and Jacques Creppel, Foster Creppel of Woodland Plantation, Lisa Creppel Peterson, and Gregg Creppel.

Guests included economic adviser to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Rebecca Conwell, who represented the New Orleans City Council, along with hundreds more. Noted, too, were music maker Naydja Cojoe, actress Stephanie Duplechin, singer Mary Flynn Thomas, retired restaurateur Manuel “Pancho” Cueller, and retired FBI agent James Bernazzani.

And, Josh Danzig, Gus Escanelle, Juan Rodriguez, Brenda Scherzer, Willie Fiske, Julio Gonzalez, Gerry McGovern, Michelle Hansen, Leon Rittenberg, Harlan Schwartz, Brian Heiken, Dr. John Vandover, Rob Fulton, Margarita Bergen, Dr. Dan and Susan Talbot, the Richard Fausts, Jose and Jerilyn Rodriguez, Gladis Santos Rosa, Russell Rocke, Anna Giangrosso, Betty Gowacki and granddaughter Rachel, and members of The “C” Club who’ve been celebrating continually for 35 years.

They and scores more acknowledged the 100 years of The Columns, a St. Charles Avenue landmark, and sent all the best for the next century.