Arts Center Benefit-Goers Join the Circus

Clowns and magicians turned the Four Seasons Hotel into a circus Saturday for a benefit staged by the Sound of Music Chapter of the Guilds of the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

The “Circus Fantasy” gala attracted about 300 guests to the Newport Beach hotel for dining, dancing and clowning around. The $175-per-person benefit raised about $60,000 for the center’s operating fund.

Send in the Clowns

“Because this is a recession year, we wanted a light, happy theme,” said Jodi Greenbaum, event chairwoman.

Party-goers were greeted by mannequins and props that carried out the circus theme, including a circus performer riding a papier-mache elephant.

“We found the elephant at a place in Los Angeles that rents props for movies,” said event co-chairwoman Catherine Thyen. “You can go wild in there.”


Many guests wore colorful costumes inspired by the circus theme. Jeannie Awad, Sound of Music chairwoman, wore a red velvet gown with a feather boa that matched the rainbow hues of a clown’s wig.

“I thought this fit the fantasy theme,” Awad said.

Candice Schnapp, last year’s chapter president, sported a purple, orange and gold sequined sheath with a dramatic bow and sash and a small stuffed blackbird perched on her shoulder, while husband, Roger, wore a matching sequined bow with his tuxedo. Both costumes were the work of Gildas in Newport Beach.

Under the Big Top

The hotel ballroom was decked out in purple, red and blue balloons to simulate a circus tent. Two mannequins were set up inside--an acrobat balancing precariously atop a pedestal and a trapeze artist dangling from a swing.

Tables were decorated with elaborate clown doll centerpieces by artist Marjorie Bennett and hand-painted enamel box party favors by Jacqueline Klein. Three real clowns, a fire-eater and two mimes, roamed among the tables teasing guests, while illusionist Ed Alonzo performed magic on stage. Alonzo levitated a napkin with the help of guest Tina Schafnitz, and he escaped from a straitjacket while somehow producing a live duck.

After the performances, guests were served a gourmet feast of chicken consomme with fresh mushrooms, baby lettuce tossed in raspberry vinaigrette, grilled swordfish with cilantro beurre blanc or grilled filet of beef with truffle potatoes, and for dessert a frozen vanilla truffle ringed with caramel sauce. Party-goers danced the rest of the night away.

Since 1979, the Sound of Music chapter has raised nearly $1 million for the performing arts center.

Among those attending were honorary chairmen Charles and Nora Hester, Judith and Ralph Blakeney, Robert and Terry Callahan, Jack and Denise Cancellieri, Don and Diane Christy, Peggy Goldwater Clay, Lynn Davies Cook, Robert and Judith Duke, James and Patty Edwards, Shari and Harry Esayian, Eve Foussard, Timothy and Patsy Marshall, Gary and Kasia Johnson, Tom Morgan, Sandy and Harriet Sandhu, Wally and Teresa Sinner and Richard and Sandy Sewell.