The Scene: Shakespeare & Company's 40th season Ruby Gala was a jewel of an evening

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PHOTO GALLERY | The Scene: Ruby Gala

LENOX — The age of Shakespeare came to life for a single night as Shakespeare and Company celebrated a milestone anniversary on Saturday, July 1.

Stepping into the misty evening, it was as if one was transported to another time and place. Just after a light rain, the grounds glowed as did the supporters, board members, administration, and special guests attending Shakespeare and Company's 40th season Ruby Gala honoring the company's 40-year tradition of "bringing world-class theatrical productions to Berkshire audiences."

Happily taking tickets and reservations were Kirsten Mulrenan, a publicity intern from Skidmore College, and Maggie Winslow, a marketing intern from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"I'm so excited to be able to work this event and experience it," Mulrenan said.

Winslow added, "I've heard about this gala for years and now we're able to live it."

Guests, colorfully dressed in their finest couture, mingled and meandered within the circular walls and under rustic beams of the Tina Packer Playhouse. Out through the grand doors in the courtyard, servers floated around with delectable hors d'oeuvres by Peter Platt of Old Inn on the Green. Berkshire Mountain Distillers created the celebration's signature drink, the Ruby Drop, a concoction made with vodka, Triple sec, organic lemonade, fresh raspberries and love.

As guests sipped on cocktails, they placed bids on silent auction items — a number of valuable prizes sponsored by local organizations — and were treated to inviting melodies of the past played by pianist Caroline Sprague, of Brown University, and box office associate Emma Adler, who attends UMass-Amherst, on clarinet.

Robin Gerson Wong, of Seven Hills Inn, came dressed in red and black Asian flair.

"I'm thrilled to be here. Seven Hills is a big supporter of Shakespeare and Company," she said. "We have gotten to know many of the actors and administration and every summer we look forward to the productions and promote them to our guests."

Michael Miller, co-chairman of the gala committee, has served on the Shakespeare and Company board of trustees for 25 years, spending 10 years as chairman of the board.

 "I wanted to co-chair because I know this is a big one for us," he said. "One, where we look forward to celebrating the last 40 years and with our incredible team will be running into the future of the next 40 years."

Miller added, "We have had some hard times, but we made it and people flock to success."

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli was among the guests and showing his continuous support for the arts.

As the cocktail hour waned, it became time for a performance by a sugary ensemble of lady performers — the multiple Grammy Award-winning a cappella musical group Sweet Honey In The Rock — who graced the stage with their emotional and empowering music are a multiple Grammy Award- winning a cappella musical group.

The musical performance was interwoven with scenes and monologues performed by actors including Thomas Brazzle, Nehassaiu deGannes, Deaon Griffin-Presley, John Hadden, Corinna May and Tod Randolph. Additional performances by Allyn Burrows, Tina Packer, Dennis Krausnick, Kevin Coleman, Ariel Bock, Johnathan Epstein, Jonathan Croy, MaConnia Chesser, Rory Hammond, Chloe Young and C.J. Neubert.

Following the performances, Miller and Gala co-chairwoman Deborah Ryan thanked those in attendance and offered a few remarks.

"The future is looking incredibly bright," said Ryan. And with that they introduced Artistic Director Allyn Burrows

"It all amounts to one theme and that is about connection," he said." As you can see we value grace here, and we are looking at seasons down the road where each one resonates for us deeply because of what you mean to us and what we mean to each other."

Burrows then introduced his "buddy," Managing Director Adam Davis.

"Ladies and gentleman we are so excited to have you here tonight as we celebrate our 40 years of what has been, and look forward to the next 40 years," Davis said.

Next, company member David Joseph encouraged supporters to raise their paddles in pledges of $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250, and $100.

"Shakespeare and Company is made up of huge hearts and huge minds," he said.

A dinner commenced in the Company Courtyard where white tents thin enough to see the stars awaited amidst the candlelight. Men in Shakespearean robe held swords throughout the path. Guests made their journey down the hill, under darkening skies with umbrellas, as it began to rain and yet they couldn't help but to gaze in awe at the staging of Romeo and Tybalt's fatal dul.

Sponsors were given premium table seating reserved for donations of $20,000, $10,000, $6,000, $4,000, and $750. Regular gala tickets cost $400.

After a mouth watering smorgasbord by Platt, it was time to dance and party under the surreal night sky with DJ BFG.


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