Designers Put On Their Best for Actors Group

Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Even before the Orange County Black Actors Theatre’s first Fashion Spectrum luncheon got under way Sunday at the Irvine Hilton, Adleane Hunter was talking about next year’s event.

“This will be much easier next year,” said Hunter, founder and artistic director of the troupe, taking a break from her stint at the ticket sales table at the Irvine Hilton. Event co-chairs Garilynn Dickson and Lenora Terrance also pitched in to deal with tickets and other last-minute details.

Fashion shows are a tradition for the group, which has sponsored the Orange County appearance of the touring Ebony magazine fashion show for the past 11 years. “We just decided to put on our own this year,” Hunter said.

The show had two purposes: to spotlight black designers, including three from Orange County, and to raise money for the theater’s new building fund. It was a success on both fronts. The crowd of more than 350 cheered for the designs and their creators, and the event netted more than $12,000.

Hunter was looking to the future in another sense as well. Although the theater’s building fund was only recently established, she hopes that by mid-1990 the nomadic company will have a home of its own.

“We have not had the fairy godmother drop down from the sky to wave her magic wand over us,” Hunter said. “So it’s up to us. We are aggressively engaged in raising money.” The Polaroid Corp. underwrote the costs of the show.

Orange County designers involved included Prentis Bonds Jr., Dwight Henry and Violet Strange.

Backstage, Bonds confided that he was so excited he hadn’t slept in 2 days. A longtime actor and volunteer behind-the-scenes worker with the Black Actors Theatre troupe, Bonds is a newcomer to the fashion business. “Two and a half years ago I looked at some of my sketches and decided I was tired of just seeing them on paper,” Bonds said. “I went for it.”

Other designers came from Los Angeles and New York. The fashions ran the gamut from conservative to flamboyant.

Many of the models were also from the county, including model-actor-dancer Derek Fleming of Orange, who performed with Suzanne Nowell in the show’s opener (an excerpt from “A Colored Museum” by George Wolfe). Fleming, a regular on TV’s “Soul Train,” said he hadn’t previously been involved with the theater troupe. “But I will be,” he said.