NEW YORK - Howard Kaga, Eric Bogosian and Jo Bonney at the New Group’s gala, which attracted luminaries from the New York theatre world.
During the course of each year, I conduct at least six benefit auctions for New York Theatre groups. I suspect one reason this happens is that within each auctioneer there is an actor dying to tread the boards. While each of these groups claims a unique identity in the city’s cultural life, I must nevertheless point out that they have several common attributes.
Inevitably, these benefits take place on Monday nights, when Broadway theatres are darkened. Most of the items offered in the live auctions are of a theatrical nature, including backstage tours by actors, glad to share their good fortune in being actively employed.
The live auction will be squeezed in between multiple performances by at least half a dozen thespians. Not for nothing are they known as “lovies” in Great Britain. Of this six-pack, two will be stars of currently successful shows, two will be ancient stars of the distant past, vocally straining to revive a role last played around the time that theatres were lit by gaslight. The final two acts will be performed by friends of the Director of the theatre company, yet to acquire any credentials beyond the aforementioned friendship.
The show will thus be a series of actors attempting to entertain other actors, an incestuous event at best. The show will start late and run late, partly due to the fact that the principal act will be the introduction of the honoree, invariably by the Director of the company, who at last has grasped center stage, in full spotlight, and is determined to give all the speeches he or she would have declaimed had their long-ended acting careers taken a different path.
Into this theatrical love-in walk the auctioneer, part stand-up comedian, part orchestra conductor, and part fly-fisherman, eager to hook the one or two non-thespians with sufficient financial wherewithal to literally keep the show on the road.
The New Group, a wonderful theater company that develops and produces new plays, held their benefit on Monday (Yes!), February 27, at the Edison Ballroom. Stars from The Good Wife (Alan Cumming), Seminar (Alan Rickman, Lily Rabe), and the New Group’s own Russian Transport mingled with the crowd, until, finally, Leslie Uggams launched us vocally back into the night. The event raised more than $450,000, which will help the company achieve its essential mission.
Lily Rabe and honoree David Rabe
Auctioneer Hugh Hildesley
Playwright Erika Sheffer and actress Sarah Steele
Wallace Shawn and Nancy Manocherian
Scott Elliott, Artistic Director of the New Group, with honoree Nancy Manocherian