The Crowd: Laguna Beach Playhouse gets top billing

The Crowd: Laguna Beach Playhouse gets top billing
Shirley Pepys and Donna Bianch of Chapman University stand with Rene Pepys Lowe, CEO of Orangewood, and Lauren Peterson, vice president of client affairs of Whittier Trust, during an art tour of the Hilbert Museum of California Art. (Courtesy Peggy O'Donnell)

Orange County family history came to life in the form of the descendants of some of the region’s pioneer founders coming forward to support Laguna Playhouse at a recent golden anniversary gala. Jared Mathis, the great-grandson of Nellie Gail Moulton, the storied rancher, equestrian, artist and arts patron, joined members of the 21st century Moulton family, including his cousin and business partner Scott Barnes, presenting the playhouse with a $1-million gift to be used for renovation and restoration of the Moulton Theatre in Laguna.

The generous grant was applauded by Laguna Playhouse Executive Director Ellen Richard, joining some 400 theater patrons coming together for the 50th gala in Newport Beach.


Lisa Hale, Anne Delia Donna and Jamie Walters El Erian co-chaired the evening at the Fashion Island Hotel. The classy event featured a performance from Broadway star Davis Gaines, one of the O.C. crowd’s favorite artists who appears often at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and other venues. Paul Singarella, chairman of the playhouse board, his wife, Heather, and Greg and Barbara MacGillivray, Joe Hanauer, and much-loved Laguna philanthropist Heidi Miller welcomed the guests.

Sponsored in part by South Coast Plaza, Nolet Spirits and additional private donors, the evening ended up raising $1.7 million for the playhouse.


High finance meets high art

The annual Chapman University Economic Forecast Conference has gained national attention in the world of business and finance. This summer, a special conclusion to the event took place under the auspices of Whittier Trust, a firm managing $12 billion in assets. Guests attended a private reception and art tour at the Hilbert Museum, known in part for its impressive collection of 19th and 20th century California art, especially the plein air period celebrated in Laguna.

A connection between business and art became symbiotic, given the fact that Jim Doti, Chapman’s president emeritus, donated a collection of art to the Hilbert Museum of California Art. Among the paintings are works by Franz Bischoff, Harry Anderson, Arthur Beaumont, Millard Sheets, Irv Wyner, Jack Laycox, and Emil Kosa Jr. Doti, joined by museum founder Mark Hibert, conducted tours of the collection with introductions and a welcome speech by Jack Dahl, chief executive Whittier Trust.

Scouts inspire girls to lead

“Voice for Girls 2018” was all about leadership and inspiring young women to rise to their potential. The seventh annual Girl Scouts of Orange County conference at Newport Beach Country Club welcomed 240 guests, including business leaders from many of the region’s notable firms.

Presenting sponsor was BNY Mellon Wealth Management, joining additional underwriters Jeff and Caron Winston, O’Melveney & Myers LLP, Invest In Girls Education Sponsors, Beacon Pointe Advisors, Blizzard Entertainment, Cox Communications, KMPG and Western Digital.

Following a community breakfast discussion centered on ways to foster collaboration, the role of leadership, the importance of education, skills, tech savvy and community involvement were highlighted and debated.

Gina Osborn, FBI assistant special agent in charge of cyber and computer forensics, headlined the confab. On hand for the event were Vikki Shepp, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Orange County, and Shannon Kennedy, the OC Scouts’ president of U.S. Markets, Southwest.

Working to lift children from poverty

Steve Craig, one of Newport’s successful real estate developers, is dedicated to Kidworks, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Ana. It is a long-standing program with roots in faith-based philosophy that has championed education as a road out of poverty for under-served youth.

Over the decades it has changed lives, rallied the community at-large by building a campus that educates, mentors, challenges and keeps youths away from gangs, drugs and violence while on a path of personal growth and spiritual purpose. The end goal is to create a healthy life with possibilities for children unforeseen by their parents and generations preceding them.

Coming up Nov. 8, Kidworks patrons will return to the Double Tree by Hilton Hotels in Santa Ana for its 12th annual Foundation For Success Luncheon. Steve Craig will receive the 2018 Dan Donahue Leadership Award. The late Donahue, another successful developer, was one of Kidworks early donors.

Literacy Project reminds that reading is a gift

The Literacy Project has been dedicated to improving reading skills in Orange County for decades. Its mission is simple: teach everyone to read with competency and confidence. If you want to really change a disadvantaged individual or child’s life, give the gift of literacy.

Throughout the year, the foundation sponsors multiple events that help fund their many outreach programs. Recently, one of the most popular, “Cheers For Literacy,” took place at The Winery in Newport Beach. Organizers report that it was the most successful one yet.

The literacy battle commenced behind the bar. Liz Hurley, senior vice president and partner at VOIT Real Estate Services in Newport Beach, and Michele Babcock, principal for MB Realty Solutions also in Newport, competed against Sabrina Neas, senior account manager for Seattle-based Zillow Group, and Nina Ardalan, trial attorney for Ardalan Law Group in Irvine, to find out whose literacy-themed cocktail, aptly named the “One Flew Over the Cucumber’s Nest” and “The Bookworm,” would reign supreme.

Thanks to the ladies behind the bar, friends and family, and TLP’s generous supporters, everyone won, because this year’s event raised $4,391 — enough to give 44 struggling readers the gift of literacy.