- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

Wolf Trap Associates took the phrase, "All the world's a stage" quite literally Friday night to thank those who have supported its programs in the past.

But the festivities atop the Filene Center's stage were meant to do more than evoke this year's ball theme, Shakespeare's comic play, "As You Like It." They also provided an occasion to honor the assembled ambassadors, many representing countries that previously sponsored the ball, and a who's who of Virginia politicos although no bows were required.

Mollie Ottina, who co-chaired the ball with her husband, Dr. John Ottina, said that having it in the same space where internationally renowned artists have performed made all the difference.

"People can say, 'I've danced on the Wolf Trap stage,'" Mrs. Ottina said, looking over a sea of crushed red velvet-topped tables while noting that the event was one of only two in the country where guests could party across a theatrical stage (the other being a benefit for New York's Metropolitan Opera).

After walking through a burgundy portal framed by two colorfully clad Beefeaters, partygoers took in a setting that combined the spirit of Elizabethan revelry against a scenic backdrop of verdant woods, exquisitely lighted for the occasion.

It was an affair that would have made Shakespeare feel right at home, down to the rich English trifle dessert.

To say nothing of the veddy proper king's English of British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, the event's honorary co-chairman, who drew delighted laughter while expounding his theory that Shakespeare's "As You Like It" touches upon contemporary themes like dating, industrial downsizing and negative campaigning.

Male revelers came in sartorially smart tuxedos, while women, many in floor-length gowns, provided the evening's visual spice as they waltzed, fox-trotted and rock 'n' rolled across the second largest stage in the country.

In general, however, dancing lacked in excitement compared with last year, when star-powered hoofer Robert Duvall tangoed to honor Argentina with his sleek young wife.

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III turned out to be this year's terpsichorean of note, spending much of the evening with his wife, Roxane, on the crowded dance floor.

"We haven't had a chance to come here before," the Republican governor said, obviously enjoying an evening in which, for once, politics wasn't the main course. Generous servings of thick roast beef awash in bearnaise sauce filled that bill.

"It's the cultural center for the performing arts. We want to be supportive," said Mr. Gilmore, who earlier in the day took in the Norman Rockwell exhibit at Washington's Corcoran Gallery.

While the gala's tune bespoke unbridled gaiety, the evening raised funds for Wolf Trap's education programs, including its opera company and institute for Early Learning Through the Arts.

The ball drew a range of VIP patrons and friends of the park, including Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta, Sen. John W. Warner, National Parks Service Director Robert Stanton and former Rep. Patricia Schroeder.

An evening that began with medieval trumpets blaring ended with the more modern melodies from Donna Summer and other dance divas a fitting way to coax the evening's "players" onto the dance floor one last time.

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