Palo Alto Players – 2019 Fund Raising Gala

The Grant Avenue Follies entourage. All photos by Evelyn Huynh and Christian Pizzitani.


Hopefuls bidding for goodies in the silent auction.

After 88 years of excellence, Palo Alto Players, the organization for which the Lucie Stern Theatre was built, reigns as the oldest theater company in the San Francisco Bay Peninsula. Was the “East Meets West” theme for the company’s fourth fundraising gala a fluke? We say no. One influence in selecting that designation was that the company’s next production is Rogers and Hammerstein’s delightful Flower Drum Song, which takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And by the happy stroke of providence, the number 88 symbolizes good fortune and good luck to Chinese people. This timely association would augur well both for the fundraiser and financial future of Palo Alto Players!

A framed welcome to the gala.

‘Twas March 17, when many a Saint Patrick’s Day leprechaun readied to empty a pot of gold to support continuing top-notch theatrical performances. Opportunities to contribute abounded for the over 150 guests. Elizabeth Santana, our host and Managing Director of Palo Alto Players, emceed the well-orchestrated affair, which yielded over $85,000 for the company’s coffers. Congratulations to all of the organizers for pulling off this welcomed accomplishment.

Michael Reed singing.

On a perfectly bright, sunny day, many fashionable patrons of the local art community and artists attended the event at the imposing Palo Alto University Club. Early evening featured a cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction with scores of appealing items, including travel, theater, food, spas, sporting events, and more. Attendees could mill about or sit outdoors on the large deck overlooking an Olympic-sized swimming pool, surrounded by lush greenery. Alternatively, they could place bids and follow the competition on the valuable items donated for the silent auction.

Grant Avenue Follies dancers.

Dinner tables were beautifully decorated with Chinese themed paraphernalia. Ornamental chopsticks, red ang pao gift packets containing gold chocolate coins, black and red fans, and fortune cookies graced the settings. Prior to the food service, and inspired by The Players upcoming production of Flower Drum Song, Chinatown’s seniors dance troupe, The Grant Avenue Follies, executed tap, high kick, and graceful dance routines while decked out in glamorous regalia.

Managing Director Elizabeth Santana (center) flanked by Amy Yang and Jing Jing Xu.

After the performance, guests received a salad appetizer, appropriately served in Chinese take-out containers with chopsticks. Then diners could choose among fish, beef or vegetarian entrees. The highlight of the meal, financially and for taste, was the second annual Dessert Dash. Through competition, the table with the highest overall bid could run to pick up the preferred sweet for their table – then the next highest, and so on down through the tables until all the delectable confections were grabbed. But not to fret – no calorie lover went without. Even the lowest bidders were served delicious “It’s Its” ice cream sandwiches in multiple flavors.

Guests seated for dinner

Many activities accompanied the dinner. Michael Reed belted “No Other Way” from the musical Tarzan, in which he starred. But more touchingly, he offered a personal story on the importance of Palo Alto Players to his development as an actor. Having met his wife through the company, he reminded attendees how involvement and support of theater, music, and art brings people together and changes lives in positive ways. As an enticement to attend the coming production of Flower Drum Song, performers sang show stoppers “A Hundred Million Miracles,” “You Are Beautiful – Small and Shy,” and “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” Following, the company’s Leading Player Award was presented honoring Palo Alto Players’ photographer Joyce Goldschmid for her commitment to the company.

Auctioneer Tim Leahy and…….Could that be a real Leprechaun?

Professional auctioneer Tim Leahy joined in the proceedings to auction off the big-ticket items and keep everyone entertained. Among the items that stirred interest and garnered significant contributions were a pair of tickets to the Lady Gaga show in Las Vegas, along with $100 gift certificates to use on Southwest Airlines and, and a second package which was comprised of two front orchestra seats to Hamilton along with an on-stage meet/greet/photo-op with the conductor and $100 certificate to Fringale restaurant. There were many more items, but to us, the pièce de résistance, was “pick your paradise” one-week trips for two – a private villa in Bali, a South African safari, or a one bedroom home in Cortona, Tuscany. Four dueling bidders won those trips.

Vic and Karin Cordell

The festive gala provided great camaraderie, entertainment, a feast, and successful fund raising – a rewarding evening for all.  We look forward to the final productions of this season and a bright 2019-2020.