It was a Brooklyn-style high-powered crowd of fur hats and shiny shoes on Feb. 6 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s semi-annual theater gala at the Skylight One Hanson building, a converted former bank. Stars casually mingled among the guests, un-harassed for requests of selfies or autographs.
Attendees at the dinner included novelist couple Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss, the host of The Food Network’s “Chopped” Ted Allen, New York City councilmen Brad Lander and Steve Levin, and Cynthia Nixon who attended with her partner Christine Marinoni. Hugh Jackman attended the performance of “King Lear,” which featured Frank Langella in the title role. Nixon told Variety that while this was her first BAM gala, she was certainly “a very happy audience member,” and she was greatly looking forward to Langella’s “Lear.”
“I’m such a fan of his work,” Nixon said. “I saw him as Dracula and in ‘Present Laughter.’ We don’t have a lot of American actors right now with his chops to tackle roles like Lear. He’s a pleasure to watch. You always learn something from him.”
Nixon just wrapped up work on her new film “Life Itself” with Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton, and said she’s looking forward to starting work on her next project, titled “Stockholm, Pennsylvania.”
Langella, despite rumors that he was battling bronchitis, managed to give a compelling performance in a very stripped-down, bare bones production that featured little color and relied much on the talents of the actors. He did not, however, appear after the performance to attend the dessert course in the lobby of the theater.
BAM’s President Karen Brooks Hopkins, who announced she will be retiring in June 2015, announced that BAM had raised $600,000 in support of Thursday night’s gala. “It’s hard for the arts to get the support it needs in the world today,” she said. “BAM is here to ensure that New York remains the cultural capital of the world.”
Gary Lynch, BAM’s Gala chairperson, echoed her words saying BAM needed to keep its place as “the forefather of the Brooklyn arts renaissance.”
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The massive entrance hall of Skylight One, where the gala was held, was handsomely decorated to resemble an indoor garden, with faux vines and shrubberies, seemingly as a foreshadowing of the play the well-heeled audience was about to see. The large speaker’s dais was similarly entombed in a large mass of faux-green leaves, a decoration about which both speakers felt compelled to comment. “I feel like I’m standing in a forest,” Lynch said, to some laughter.
(Pictured: Hugh Jackman and Pat Schoenfeld at the BAM Gala performance of “King Lear”)