Repertory's Benefit Party Has International Flavor

Not to be outdone by South Coast Repertory's world-premiere smash last season of "Three Postcards," the Guilds of SCR sent culinary postcards to guests who attended "Kaleidoscope, an International Celebration" Saturday night.

From England: English tea and scones heaped with Devonshire clotted creme and raspberry preserves, courtesy Creative Cuisine.

From France: Flaky fruit tarts--dazzling in color and design--created by Ambrosia.

From China: Kung Pao chicken and delicate egg rolls whipped up by Newport Mandarin.

And from India: Gandhi restaurant's succulent chicken Tikka--a favorite of David Emmes, SCR's producing artistic director. "I've had two helpings," Emmes confessed, adding that the culinary array was the "finest I've seen at this event."

The $65-per-person benefit, which featured silent and live auctions, raised an estimated $100,000 for the Costa Mesa-based theater's $1.15-million Annual Fund. The yearly fund-raising effort bridges the gap between earned income and operating expenses.

Guests were greeted by champagne-pouring members of SCR's seven guilds, who dressed in the prescribed "evening resort attire" (which was translated mostly into silky prints on women and sporty linens on men).

Moving about the theater's hissing fountain courtyard, auction catalogues in hand, the 450 partygoers bid while they piled tiny plates with hefty helpings of food from 19 vendors.

"I'm eating anything that isn't painted," joked Andrew Johnson, eyeing a cart of lacquered lobster as he headed for a second helping of seafood gumbo at the Beverly Heritage Hotel booth. "The gumbo is wonderful-- very authentic," Johnson said.

Also included in the buffet was tricolor pasta from Alfredo's, spicy beef satay from Royal Thai Cuisine, iced shrimp from Pronto Ristorante and buttery escargot propped on crusty rounds of French bread from the Riviera restaurant.

Taking a breather between bites and silent-auction bidding, Emmes spoke of SCR's success: "With 25,000 subscribers and a budget of $4.3 million, we're one of the top 10 resident theaters in the country. And the key to that success is the unique energy of Orange County.

"The vision that built Orange County is the vision that gives us an audience that is dynamic, vital and supportive. There is no blase sophistication here."

The resident theater's goal, Emmes said, is to "continue the qualitative commitment. We have the quantitative means--our audience, our budget, our two theaters and our children's theater. But, we hope to deepen our work, make it more dimensional and challenging to our audiences. For example, we hope to attract artists from New York to perform here."

Conducting the live auction in the SCR's Mainstage Theater (guests who paid $100 to attend sat in reserved seats in the first three rows) was Melvin Giller of Nationwide Auction.

"All right," Giller told guests. "What you bid on this first item sets the temper for the evening. Now, what do I hear for this 'How to Host a Murder' party in your own home?"

Among those furiously waving bidding paddles were murder party winners Bob and Jan Seddelmeyer (who bid $1,200); Bill and Lorrayne Engel, who paid $1,900 for the lynx-dyed fox coat worn in "Three Postcards," and Donna and Frank O'Bryan, who bid $700 to have Chinese dinner for eight cooked in their home by Micah Levy, conductor of the Orange County Chamber Orchestra.

After the auction, guests returned to the courtyard for liqueurs, dancing and dessert. Among the bite-size delectables provided by a new set of vendors were petite pastries from Cafe Casino, chocolate-dipped strawberries from Pennington's, cheese cake (in sauce swirled with a chocolate syrup SCR logo) and petit fours from Piret's.

Melinda Killmer chaired the event. Among the guild chairmen assisting were Barbara Lilak, Ann Weiss, Patti Nicholes, Kathleen Florini, Diana Peel, Carole Ford, Noddie Weltner, Joy Owens, Karen Rosenthal, Irene Iverson, Debbie Andrews, Susan Henrichsen and Caroline LePlastrier.

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