Elaine Stritch, Stephen Sondheim, George Takei, Liza Minnelli, Alec Baldwin, Bernadette Peters AND sitting at the same table as Kate Mulgrew....what's not to love, right?
Well, that's what I thought when I discovered there were tickets available to sit at Kate's table for the Stella by Starlight gala, set for June 10th 2013. After much deliberation with my darling husband we decided we could make it happen and promptly organized our two day get away to Manhattan.
Sunday, June 9th...8:30am, we eagerly exited the airport and made our way to the hotel, checked in and went sight seeing. Kris (my husband) and I immediately fell in love with the city! When I next looked at my watch it was 1pm, I remembered "Somewhere Fun" had a 3pm matinee performance that day so I called the theatre and asked if tickets were still available, thankfully there were so we hightailed it to a subway station. The play was amazing, beautifully written, the acting was marvelous and Kate was of course superb. After the performance there was to be a discussion with some of the cast so Kris and I decided to stay. Kathleen Chalfant, Richard Bekins and Jenny Schwartz did a Q and A with the audience. They talked about some of the symbolism throughout the play, the wonderful writing style Jenny has and the main themes that run throughout. Hearing the actors viewpoints on the writing and what it means to their portrayal of the characters was definitely enlightening. After the discussion finished we ended up walking out with Kathleen Chalfant, she was lovely and very appreciative that we came to see the play. Deciding we needed dinner and a drink we once again ventured out to discover what Manhattan had to offer.
Monday, June 10th....After getting lunch at a colorful little hole in the wall pizza joint we decided to have fun traveling on the subways, Kris loved them, don't ask! Eventually it came time for us to go back to the hotel so I could get ready for the gala. My stomach was starting to do back flips and cartwheels, I was definitely a little nervous! 6pm rolled around and in to a taxi we hopped. We arrived right outside Espace and Kris walked me to the door, gave me a peck on the cheek and went on his merry way to explore some more. So here I was, by myself and completely at a loss as to what I was meant to do now. Thankfully, the organizers were nice and told me to check my coat and have a drink, which I did. As I was standing there I happened to see a woman whom I thought I recognized from Facebook, after asking her name and making sure I wasn't wrong I discovered it was Connie! Happy that I kind of knew at least one person, calmness found me again. As Connie and I were chatting Kate arrived with her son, Alec and his girlfriend. We all introduced ourselves and Kate had to run off and "mingle" but not before telling me where the bar was, holding up my drink I told her I had already managed to find that, definitely needed a bit of liquid courage!
Eventually we were seated for dinner, sadly Connie was at a different table and I was again all by myself. There was no need for me to worry though, Kate had me at ease pretty quick, she definitely loves asking questions! She stated she was very thankful that I bought a ticket and explained that the cost of my ticket put one under privileged kid through the studio, that definitely made me feel good! As George Takei was heading toward his seat Kate waved him over and congratulated him on his award then proceeded to introduce us, let me just say his voice is amazing! There were several other people seated at our table, I can't remember most of them but I do remember the man that definitely made my night, Alexander Bernstein. He came and sat to my right and we immediately were engrossed in conversation about his father, New Zealand and the education systems in both countries. What a wonderful man, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him...anyway, you are all more interested in Kate I'm sure. When dinner was served and the awards started I was facing away from the stage, across the table from Kate. The lovely man on her right, who's name eludes me asked if I wanted to switch seats with him so I could see the stage better. Gracefully I accepted his offer and plonked down next to Kate who proceeded to laugh and call me stubborn for not switching with her earlier when she offered.
Getting to see George Takei and Stephen Sondheim accept their awards was a treat, they were both hilarious. There was an intermission so dessert could be served. I was now sitting between Kate and a very well known doctor who's name I cannot remember (I have a bad memory, don't judge, he will now be referred to as "The Doctor"). The Doctor introduced himself and asked how I knew Kate, what a laugh! I explained about the ticket opportunity that Totally Kate had available and how it was an event that I couldn't miss. Delighted by this he then proceeded to ask Kate about her role as Captain Janeway and how she felt about the influence it had on women in general. She proceeded to tell of her trip to the White House and how she was deeply moved by the women she met that night. Kate is very proud of Janeway and for good reason. Eventually, Alec overheard The Doctor say something about New Zealand and that got us on the topic of rugby. I was intrigued to find out Alec is the captain of his team and loves the sport, Go All Blacks! Kate respects the sport but definitely is motherly when it comes to Alec getting hurt, that had us chuckling. The hosts of the awards, Jane Levy and Keith Powell came back on stage and started the awards again. Liza Minnelli came on stage and talked about meeting Elaine Stritch and the impact she had on her as a girl, then Bernadette Peters came on stage and sung a Stephen Sondheim song for Elaine, amazing experience. Elaine Stritch then came up to accept her award, she was a hoot, such a lively woman, I'm glad I had the opportunity to see her in person.
The night started winding down and Kate nudged me and said she would walk me out before she left. I told her I had so many things I wanted to ask her but couldn't remember any of them! Laughing, she proceeded to say she was doing a play at Vineyard Theatre, I jumped on that and told her I had seen it the day before and that my husband and I thought it was brilliantly written and performed. We proceeded to chat about the play and her "melting" on stage. She then signed my program and also one for a friend. All too soon the gala had come to an end and I was walking with Kate to collect my coat, we met up with Connie and stood in line waiting for the coat check. I then asked if I could have a photo, Connie took a couple of pics for me. Kate gave me a kiss and a hug and again thanked me for coming. Before leaving she said that she will be seeing me again, me not being so sure I raised my eyebrow and gave her a questioning look, Kate said she knows these things and it will happen. All I can say is I hope she is right, Kate is an amazing and interesting person whom I would very much like to see again.
Kate Mulgrew is a member of the board of directors of Stella Adler Studio of Acting