Hartford Stage Throws A Wonderfully Dark (o) Gala

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If Java ever has a party, she wants Hartford Stage artistic director Darko Tresnjak to be in charge.

The man did a superlative job when it came to spearheading the stage’s annual “Party In The Paint Shop 3” gala Saturday night, coordinating details right down to the centerpieces and the music.

“I love planning,” said the new head of Hartford Stage, who, with co-chairs Marla Byrnes and Patty Willis, was credited with an attractively “dark” night reflecting the party’s “Black Magic” theme. That meant a red, white and black color theme with oversized artificial white roses as centerpieces, classic 40s music, signature drinks, And then his stage savvy kicked in with aerialists, “living” statues, oversized, Anne Cubberly marionettes and an “informal “ formal dress code that was, for lack of a better word, interesting.

Honorary co-chairs Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and husband Charlie Ortiz showed up in matching artsy tee shirts and tuxes. Stage press rep Charlie Siedenburg sported an interesting trend, tux with a sport shirt and untied bowtie.

Winning the nearly x-rated award was guy-into-everything John Wheat who hand painted his pants with a series of nude women. He explained the artwork reflected his theme of  “wine, women and song,”  with music and song reflected in the strategically placed lyre and a couple of  bunches of grapes.

What was most noticed however was the transformation of the stage’s workshop on Murphy Road into an elegant and creative venue, effort that translated into “wow” for first timers.

“I had imagined a dingy workshop with maybe some pretty tables,” said Ivana Vater, a Middlebury resident who attended for the first time with friends. “I do admit I nearly tripped coming in because it was so dark in her , but wow, this is gorgeous,” she said, admiring the draped walls, elegantly set tables and enjoying food by Hartford’s own Billings Forge.

“Black Magic” was the chosen theme because of its tie in to the current Stage production of “Bell, Book and Candle.” Star Kate MacCluggage was expected after the evening show, but in the meantime there was some other stage celeb power working the crowd.

Daniel Davis, who will star as Prospero in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” opening at Hartford Stage on May 10, opted out of The Big Apple for the weekend to be part of the party.

And who believes in black magic? A lot of people including board member Robert Crowder’s girlfriend, Irina Eyman. “I do believe in black magic,” she said smiling at her beau. “I think I charmed him.”


For more gala photos go to courant.com/javablog.

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