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Jaw-dropping surprise steals the show at beloved Houston theater gala

Jaw-dropping surprise steals the show at beloved Houston theater gala

2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
(Back) T.R. Reckling, III, Isla Reckling, Glenda & Russell Gordy; (front) Sue and Lester Smith. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Becca Cason Thrash. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Tara Simon and George Lancaster.  Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Katherine Morille, Rock Morille, Rock Morille Jr., Trish Morille. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Steven Owlsey, Eddy Blanton. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Bradley and Brenda Jones. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Lauren Granello, Alicia Gordy, Ruth Calabrese. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Marnie Greenwood, William Finnorn. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Myrtle Jones. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Limor and Stuart Smith. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Mauri Oliver, Ceron. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Leisa Holland-Nelson and Sandra Porter. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Glenda and Russell Gordy, Sue Smith, Lester Smith (front). Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Franny, Sally and Philip and Maria Edmundson. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Enid Sanchez, Roland Maldonado. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Duke and CC Ensell. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Beth Muecke. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
Alexandra and Rich Bruskoff. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala
2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala

What: The 2019 Stages Repertory Theatre Gala: The Night Garden

Where: The Revaire

The scoop: It was a dramatic night of surprise gifting by two of Houston’s most respected families as hundreds of packed The Revaire for the annual Stages Repertory Theatre gala.

Houston philanthropists Glenda and Russell Gordy had thought that their dear friends, Sue and Lester Smith, would not be able to attend this year’s event. A bit of a disappointment, really, as this year, Stages Repertory Theatre honored Glenda and Russell Gordy with the Theodore Award for Visionary Leadership for their continued generosity and support.

(Some history: The Gordys made a leadership $5 million gift to the theater's capital campaign, one of the largest individual gifts in the history of Houston’s performing arts community. The campaign supports the construction of its new 66,850-square-foot, three-theatre campus, The Gordy, which will open in January of 2020.)

However, unbeknownst to the Gordys, the Smiths had actually reserved a table and planned to make a special announcement. Following dinner, a messenger presented the Gordys with a giant red gift box containing a check revealing a $2.5 million gift, enabling Stages Repertory Theatre to fully fund their new campus, The Gordy, nearly a year ahead of opening.

The Smiths chose to bestow their first significant performing arts donation in honor of the Gordys. In turn, Stages surprised both the Gordys and the Smiths by announcing that the new campus’s 223-seat arena stage will be named the “Lester and Sue Smith Stage.”

In all, the gala, dubbed The Night Garden, led by chairs Judy and Jim Nicklos and underwriting chairs Brenda and Bradley Jones, was the theater company’s most successful to date. The event was attended by a record-breaking 464 guests and raised more than $630,000, more than any event in Stages’ 41-year history.

Upon arrival, guests enjoyed libations and hors d’oeuvres while perusing the silent auction items. Coveted packages included a custom 2.1 ct. emerald cut diamond necklace inspired by “The Gordy” created by Elichai Fine Jewelry; 10-day excursion to Patagonia, Chile for 8; 4 Diamond Club Astros Tickets; a walk-on role in Stages’ 2019 holiday Panto; and a private plane to Marfa. Big winners in the auction included Marlene Marker, who won the Gordy diamond pendant in a fierce bidding war; Michelle and Jack Matzer, Trish and Rock Morille, and Alexandra and Rich Bruskoff. 

The décor, designed by Bergner and Johnson, was inspired by the theme, “The Night Garden,” with a hint of the theatre’s upcoming show, “Little Shop of Horrors.” Garden vines, blooming branches, trailing greenery and carnivorous plants filled the space along with touches of rich red and hot pink adding a sensuous layer to the evening.

The dinner, prepared by A Fare Extraordinaire, began with a seasonal vegetable garden which was a vegetable medley, puffed wild rice, mushroom “dirt” and herb vinaigrette and chive emulsion. The main course was pan seared halibut topped with an herb salad, roasted fingerling za’atar potatoes, roasted cauliflower and piperade sauce. For dessert, guests enjoyed a “chocolate terrarium.”

Following the surprise announcement, attendees crowded the dance floor and danced the night away to the sounds of Georgia Bridgwater Orchestra.

Who: Isla and T.R. Reckling, III; George Lancaster; Steven Owsley; Shaun Gordy; Garrett Gordy; Limor and Stuart Smith; Shelley and Mark Marmon; Jo and Jim Furr; Lloyd, Gayle, and John Ryan Bentsen; Carroll Goodman and John Young; Eddy Blanton; Becca Cason Thrash and John Thrash; C.C. and Duke Ensell; Mauri Oliver; Trish and Rock Morille; Leslie and Jack Blanton; Alexandra and Rich Bruskoff; Carol and Phil Garner; Claudia and Brad Freels; Carrie and Jonathan Brinsden; Sally and Phillip Edmundson; Tom and Laura Bacon; Claudia Kreisle; Vivian Wise; Nicole and James Lassiter; and Sandra Porter.