- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

Joy Zinoman came attired to Studio Theatre’s 29th gala in an apricot-colored Punjabi costume, thereby breaking the invitation’s requested dress code asking for passionate “1940s glamour” a la Joan Crawford. But then Studio’s energetic founding artistic director has already broken the rules by building a small empire on formerly lowdown 14th Street Northwest. “A labor of love,” she calls it modestly, saying in an offhand way that Saturday’s event would raise a record $300,000.

“We’re now where uptown wants to be,” boasted a confident Morey Epstein, executive director of the theater’s institutional development.

Their latest venture is a capital campaign called Artists Next Door, headlined by longtime supporter and former board chairman Susan Butler, that has a $4.5 million goal to reach for 16 apartments in the area to house actors and apprentices. More than $3 million already has been pledged or collected.

Some 400 guests were drawn to the festivities that had a theatrical drama all its own. The entertainment portion of the evening featured a truncated version of “The Passion of the Crawford” starring impersonator John Epperson, better known as Lypsinka. Mr. Epperson-Crawford, in convincing over-the-top makeup and costume, gave full rein to such Joan Crawford expressions as “There is a lot of bitch in every woman — and in every man, too.”

But it was the gala’s entrance ploy that had people talking — mock fans and paparazzi clamoring for autographs and photos as the 400-plus guests stepped onto a red carpet on the sidewalk to be announced by name by a peppy promoter giving them the full Hollywood treatment. Arrivals met the challenge with an array of headbands, fedoras, zoot suits, feather boas, sequins, pearls galore and fancy furs in response to the request to wear vintage clothing or similar duds.

Studio costumer Randy Mathias obliged with a white silk blend suit trimmed in rhinestones. Writer Sophie Burnham, svelte in velvet and pearls, recalled during the reception hour’s champagne and Manhattan cocktails that she and the theater had their own special history. Her interpretation of the Prometheus myth had its debut there in 2000. Thirty years ago, she added, Ms.Zinoman played her last onstage role, appearing in Ms. Burnham’s play “Penelope,” which was directed by Molly Smith long before the latter joined Arena Stage as its artistic director.

Then it was on to a dinner of tomato aspic with crabmeat, tournedos rossini and old-fashioned Betty Crocker-style chocolate cake.

Patrons included newly anointed Studio board chairwoman Janet Dewar, philanthropists Jaylee and Gilbert Mead, Jeanette and Philip Fenty, Wendy Makins, Morton Bender and wife Grace (quite the glamour gal in full-length chinchilla); Victor Shargai, William and Wendy Garner, George Farris III, Alexander von Bismarck, Charlene Drew Jarvis and Liz Cullen, now in her seventh year as gala head.

— Ann Geracimos

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