Rita Moreno Helps Raise $510,000 for Berkeley Rep at ONSTAGE Gala


Last night, April 28, at the Four Seasons San Francisco, more than 380 people celebrated Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre with actor Rita Moreno, who hosted an evening for theatre lovers, gourmands, and philanthropists. Moreno entertained the crowd with a series of songs and jokes. A gala held each year to benefit Berkeley Rep, ONSTAGE raised more than $510,000 to support the nonprofit's artistic efforts and its education and outreach programs for the local community.

In her introductory remarks, Rita roasted Artistic Director Tony Taccone and his collaborator from the premiere of Ghost Light, Jonathon Moscone. Then she teased Mary and Nick Graves, Helen and John Meyer, and Pamela Nichter with a new version of a famous song that featured the lyrics, "Tonight, tonight… I want your cash tonight!" Guests like Tom Bates, Keith Carson, Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner, and Shariq Yosufzai laughed along.

The evening included a four-course meal prepared by Mark Richardson, the executive chef of the Four Seasons San Francisco. Guests also enjoyed wines and spirits, and competed in an auction for collectable wines, culinary adventures and getaways. Fritz Hatton, chief vintner of Arietta, was the principal auctioneer for Zachys Wine Auctions.

Jean and Mike Strunsky offered bidders a seven-day trip to New York that included four house seats for the Broadway production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, four house seats for Nice Work If You Can Get It, and exclusive access to other destinations. Venus and Narsai David Offered a private dinner for 10 guests at their home in Berkeley, and Obie Award-winning director Les Waters, who flew back to the Bay Area to celebrate with friends, encouraged folks to visit him in Louisville with an auction package involving tickets to the 37th annual Humana Festival and private tours of famous Kentucky distilleries.

ONSTAGE was supported by nine Spotlight Sponsors: Chevron, the Ira & Leonore Gershwin Trusts, Nick & Mary Graves and Michael & Sue Steinberg, Julie McCray, Meyer Sound, Osterweis Capital Management, Marjorie Randolph, the Roda Group, and the Woytak-Rasmussen Family.

The honorary committee for the event included Gerson and Barbara Bakar, Rena Bransten, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Maria Carson, Narsai and Venus David, State Senator Loni Hancock and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown, Doug Housley, David Henry Hwang, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Michael Mayer, Mandy Patinkin, State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, Garen and Shari Staglin, and Michael Tilson Thomas and Joshua Robison. Led by Jill Fugaro and Felicia Woytak, the planning committee included Daniel David, Rich Edwards, David Fleishhacker, Scott Haber, Sarah Kling, Pamela Nichter, and Jean Z. Strunsky.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre has grown from a storefront stage to a leader in innovative theatre. Known for its core values of imagination and excellence, as well as its educated audience, the nonprofit has provided a home for emerging and established artists since 1968. With two stages, a school, and a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, Berkeley Rep premieres new plays. In the last six years, the company has helped send six shows to Broadway. Seven more landed off Broadway, one moved to London, two turned into films, and others have toured the nation.

In recognition of its place on the national stage, Berkeley Rep was honored with the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1997. Its versatile facilities include the 400-seat Thrust Stage, the 600-seat Roda Theatre, the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, and a spacious new campus in West Berkeley. A not-for-profit organization, the theatre welcomes an annual audience of 200,000, serves 23,000 students, and hosts dozens of community groups, thanks to 1,000 volunteers and more than 330 artists, artisans, and administrators. For more information, click berkeleyrep.org.

Photo credit: Cheshire Isaacs

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