By Punch Preview Correspondent Lindsey Clark
The Shakespeare Theatre Company pulled out all the stops this year in celebrating their Harman Center for the Arts Gala – last night the 26 year old institution honored KPMG LLP and actress Elizabeth McGovern with awards for philanthropy in the arts and classical theatre, respectively. The evening started off with a reception and performances in the stunning spaces of Sidney Harman Hall that included a fantastic program featuring 12-year-old cello prodigy Sujari Britt, an achingly beautiful dance by members of the Joffrey Ballet, songs by mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato, soliloquies from some of Shakespeare’s most notable female characters, a high-energy Broadway style song and dance number, and special surprise guests 1964 – the Beatles tribute band that Rolling Stone hails as the best one out there. In a nod to the Bard himself, the theme throughout the night paid homage to all things British, and certainly Ms. McGovern’s Downton Abbey character Lady Cora would have approved of the period-attired maids and butlers flanking the walkway to the National Building Museum, where celebrations continued with dinner and dancing (although I’m not so sure what she would have thought about Austin Powers, whom I also saw greeting guests at the gala).
In a time when many of DC’s cultural institutions are shut down until the government is back up and running, it was good to see so much support for the arts from the private sector, and during their acceptance remarks, representatives from KPMG LLP talked about the importance of arts education and all the outstanding work the Theatre continues to do in that field to bring Shakespeare and the performing arts to students in the District and beyond. KPMG has funded programs, sponsored mainstage shows and galas at the Shakespeare, and acted as a role model for arts advocacy for nearly three decades. The Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts was created in 2008 to honor those whose generosity and dedication to the performing arts has made a significant impact on the cultural life of our nation’s capital, so it’s no wonder KPMG was this year’s recipient.
Ms. McGovern received this year’s William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre for the work she has done over the course of her career both on stage and on film. The Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress trained at the Juilliard School (under the watchful eye of the Shakespeare’s Artistic Director, Michael Kahn, who presented her with the award last night) and went on to find success with films like Ordinary People, Ragtime and Once Upon a Time in America before her enormously popular television show, Downton Abbey, made her a household name. Ms. McGovern joins the ranks of past winners of the “Will Award” – which includes the likes of Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Dame Judi Dench, Christopher Walken, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and her Downton Abbey costar, Dame Maggie Smith.
Gala Co-Chairs Nick and Marla Allard put together a beautiful and enchanting event – from the program and performances to the decor and dessert (apple blackberry crumble!), they clearly devoted every effort to making a memorable evening. Together with Honorary Chairs (British Ambassador to the United States) Sir Peter Westmacott and Lady Westmacott, the Allards and the entire Gala Committee deserve an award themselves for orchestrating such a lovely (and lively) tribute to the performing arts, and to those who put so much passion and dedication into bringing the performing arts to us. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage” – and, thanks to the Harman Center and all those who played a role in last night’s fete, we can continue to honor and celebrate those who make the world a stage for us.
As the Punch Premiere Correspondent, Lindsey covers all things music and theater related. When not writing for Pamela’s Punch, Lindsey has a seriously sweet gig as Executive Assistant at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (www.pcah.gov). Aside from writing and seeing as much live music as possible, you can usually find her on a running trail, in front of a painting, staring at her dog, Lincoln, or hanging out with her big sister and fellow Punch Correspondent Niki Clark. Follow her on twitter @lindseykayclark. Contact Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.