I’ve been to quite a few charity galas in my day. And by quite a few, I mean I probably attend upwards of 30 fundraising galas per year. When you mix in food and media events—like Taste of the Nation or Washingtonian’s Best of—my annual cocktail party resume numbers in the hundreds. It’s a rough life, I’ll admit—but someone has to put on the game face and cocktail dress and make the best of it.
I can safely say I’ve never been to a more entertaining, unique fundraising fête than Studio Theatre‘s annual gala, held this year on April 1 and themed Fool’s Paradise. The evening was a welcome departure from the stuffy, formal affairs held in large ballrooms with catered cuisine—it was an evening full of spectacular surprises from start to finish.
The evening was held to benefit Studio X, the experimental wing of the award-winning historical theater on 14th Street.
As you arrive on the grey carpet, you’re greeted by a Mad Hatter, ushering you past the glass menagerie of horse-headed people ballroom dancing in the window. Cocktail hour featured ginger lime mojitos and smoked cinnamon-orange bourbon cocktails, which was great for a whiskey lover like me.
After a cocktail hour of creative cocktails, we headed into the main theatre for a cabaret performance by the talented Christine Dwyer, who starred in StudioX’s Murder Ballad, and, as Elphaba in Wicked, my favorite Broadway musical. Her selection was beyond appropriate: her magical resume, killer vocals, and role in the short-yet-important history of Studio X. Her sexy, soulful rendition of “Dirty Diana” blew me away—and she also threw in modern girl-power renditions Sia’s “Chandelier” that was spectacular. We later fan-girled her in the ladies room.
After the performance, we were ushered to our seats by ladies dressed as peacocks and men dressed as bell hops. We 250 guests were seated in different themed rooms—the butterfly room, which is undoubtedly inspired by Alice in Wonderland’s Madhatter. There was the Under the Sea room, with paper mache octopus and sea creatures hanging from the ceiling and swimming animals projected against the walls.
My knock-out date, Daniela, and I were seated in the aquarium, which was painted with gold fish on the walls. (I can’t imagine the amount of time and detail that went into putting this together.) Provided by Design Cuisine, the seated dinner was equally creative. Our meal began on a high note, with a white gazpacho made with green grapes, almonds, and cucumbers. It was delicious, and served with a pistachio, hazelnut, and sea salt crispy flatbread that was absolutely delicious. The main course was a beef tenderloin with scallops, asparagus, and potatoes. It was moist and tender—and really quite good. Particularly when you compare it to typical gala fare!
The marvelous part of the evening were the mischievous characters popping up throughout the evening, like the deep sea diver drinking espresso as he waded around in flippers, or the gorilla in a bowler hat scampering off with an enormous banana. At one point in our meal, we were serenaded by the presidents in their underwear—Ronald Reagan was particularly playful.
Last but not least, the enthusiastic guests dressed to the nines in their creative cocktail attire—and took the Fool’s Paradise theme to heart. I saw one man in a tuxedo bottom and court jester’s coat. Meanwhile, the ladies of Studio Theatre made their head dresses by hand—stunning flower crowns inspired by woodland creatures and intricate butterfly crowns.
What we lacked in creativity, we made up for in coordination, Daniela and I wore coordinated woodland-inspired green-and-blue frocks from Cynthia Rowley courtesy of Rent the Runway, which remains my go-to for ordering dresses for events. My favorite part was the glittery, pink “I Kissed a Frog” clutch by Kate Spade, which is a memorable accessory I wouldn’t pay full price for but would rent repeatedly.
After the meal, we enjoyed a tropical coconut cocktail, with white cranberry, coconut water, vanilla, vodka, coconut flakes and fresh raspberries—plus a vial shooter of vodka! It was an appropriately creative close to a spectacular evening.
I’m marking my calendar for next year’s Studio Theatre gala, and will look forward to Taste of Studio this summer. While I wasn’t a theater geek in high school, that’s definitely who I like to party with as an adult. Their parties have gotten a lot cooler with age.
Bitch Biz: Bitches Who Brunch partners with Studio Theatre. While this article was written independently by us, we do receive compensation from the company.