Aurora Theatre Company Raises More Than $200,000 at Aurora Borealis


Berkeley's acclaimed Aurora Theatre Company, now celebrating its 21st season, lit up the night on Saturday, March 23 with an evening of heavenly wining and dining at Aurora Borealis, the company's 15th annual benefit, held at The Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Over 218 guests attended the fundraising fête honoring Robert B. Hetler (Berkeley), and co-chaired by Ellen Levine (Oakland) and Jacquelin Ewing (Walnut Creek); the event raised upwards of $200,000. Funds raised at Aurora Borealis will support Aurora Theatre Company's outstanding live performances, innovative education program, and the Global Age Project new works program. Individual tickets to the invitation only event sold for $295, with tables going for $3000-$7,500.

Before dining on a delectable three course meal, guests bid on over 40 silent auction offerings, including: tickets to concerts and productions at several of the Bay Area's leading arts organizations; a behind-the-scenes tour and lunch at Pixar Studios with producer John Walker; a Berkeley firehouse-cooked dinner; original Aurora 21st season paintings by Bay Area artist Elizabeth Lada; a private tour of Neiman Marcus' fine art collection; an Ashland, Oregon adventure; a Sonoma wine holiday; and autographed Downtown Abbey memorabilia.

VIPs in attendance at Aurora Borealis included: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf, Senator Loni Hancock, former Cal Performances director Robert Cole, Susan Muscarella, founder and head of the Jazzschool, and Rene Mandel, Executive Director of Berkeley Symphony. Aurora artists in attendance included Joy Carlin; Kevin Clarke; Lauren Grace; Mark Jackson, who is directing the company's upcoming production of The Arsonists; Tim Kniffin; Carrie Paff, who stars in the company's season closer, This Is How It Goes, in June; Beth Wilmurt; and Michael Ray Wisely. Also present were Aurora Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Barbara Oliver and renowned translator Margret Schaefer. Following a lively cake auction, Managing Director Julie Saltzman and Artistic Director Tom Ross officially began the evening with a warm welcome. Mark Jackson gave a moving tribute and toast to honoree, Aurora Board President, and community leader, Robert B. Hetler, followed by a proclamation from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, officially declaring March 23rd Robert B. Hetler Day in Berkeley.

The evening concluded with a spirited live auction of exclusive items led by auctioneer Mike Grigg. Bruce Garland (Walnut Creek) and three friends will enjoy a four-night stay in magical Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jack Bieda (Emeryville) will spend December in the heart of New York City, seeing some of the best shows that The Great White Way has to offer and noshing with a Broadway producer. Narsai and Venus David (Berkeley), and eight of their friends, will have the opportunity to dine with iconic award-winning graphic artist David Lance Goines. Zandra Faye Le Duff (Oakland) will spend seven days in the lap of luxury in the Aegean Sea taking in the authentic Greek sites and history on the island of Paros. Kathy Pickup and Chuck Johnson (Oakland) will ring in the New Year in style at the San Francisco Symphony's New Year's Eve Masquerade Ball, complete with a stay in the city at The Club Donatello and hot wheels (a 2013 5 Series BMW) on loan from Weatherford BMW.

Joel Vuylsteke (Alameda) will enjoy dinner for four with popular Bay Area foodie Narsai David. Aurora Borealis co-chair Jacquelin Ewing and husband Sheafe (Walnut Creek) and Aurora Board member Carmi Weininger (Oakland) will each enjoy a sumptuous Marin oyster feast. Jacquelin and Sheafe Ewing (Walnut Creek) and Leigh and Ivy Robinson (El Cerrito) will watch the page-to-stage process unfold with a personal behind the scenes look at Aurora with Artistic Director Tom Ross. Aurora Borealis co-chair Ellen Levine and husband Barry (Oakland) will enjoy an intimate tête-à-tête with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich at the home of Bay Area acting icon Joy Carlin (who will also share a few tales of her life in the theater). Douglas Schlafer (Oakland) and three friends will have a fabulous time in historic San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Raffle winners were Paul Templeton (Berkeley), who won a seven-day holiday Holland America cruise, and Shelley Gardner (Oakland), who won the latest version of Apple's iPad.

Aurora Borealis Committee members include: Jacquelin Ewing (co-chair, Walnut Creek), Karen Faircloth (Oakland), Deborah Goodman (Berkeley), Emily Lagnado (San Francisco), Ellen Levine (co-chair, Oakland), Wendy Markel (Oakland), Carol Neil (Berkeley), Hillary Reinis (Berkeley), Renee Simi (Berkeley), and Deborah Taylor (Alamo). A Host Committee of Berkeley community leaders includes: Ginger and Moshe Alafi, Mayor Tom Bates, John Caner, Joy and Jerry Carlin, and Senator Loni Hancock.

Named "Best Theater Company" in 2012 by SF Weekly, Aurora Theatre Company continues to offer challenging, literate, intelligent stage works to the Bay Area, each year increasing its reputation for top-notch theater. Located in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, Aurora Theatre Company has been called "one of the most important regional theaters in the area" and "a must-see midsize company" by the San Francisco Chronicle, while The Wall Street Journal has "nothing but praise for the Aurora." The Contra Costa Times stated "perfection is probably an unattainable ideal in a medium as fluid as live performance, but the Aurora Theatre comes luminously close," while the San Jose Mercury News affirmed "[Aurora Theatre Company] lives up to its reputation as a theater that feeds the mind," and the Oakland Tribune declared "it's all about choices, and if you value good theater, choose the Aurora."

Aurora Theatre Company continues its 21st season in April with award-winning Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson's spin on Alistair Beaton's new translation of Max Frisch's West End hit THE ARSONISTS. The season concludes in June with the Bay Area Premiere of Neil LaBute's searing dark comedy THIS IS HOW IT GOES, directed by Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross. The company opens its 22nd season in August with the highly-anticipated Bay Area Premiere of Obie-winning playwright Amy Herzog's AFTER THE REVOLUTION, directed by Joy Carlin, followed by the Bay Area Premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's Obie-winning A BRIGHT NEW BOISE in November, helmed by Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross. The company is poised to present the Bay Area Premiere of Johnna Adams' provocative GIDION'S KNOT in January, directed by Jon Tracy. Josh Costello makes his Aurora directing debut in April with the Bay Area Premiere of WITTENBERG by David Davalos. The 22nd season concludes in June with David Mamet's searing drama AMERICAN BUFFALO, directed by Barbara Damashek. As a special addition to the season, Aurora Theatre Company presents its first fully-staged production in the company's new Second Stage performance space, Harry's UpStage; award-winning Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson directs this sixth addition to the season in April, John W. Lowell's taut two-person drama THE LETTERS.

For subscriptions, tickets, and more information about Aurora Theatre Company productions, the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit

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