- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

What is a Giorgio Armani-labeled cummerbund worth?

The answer is a solid $2,600 if it belongs to actor Kevin Spacey, who ripped it off his body spontaneously and presented it for auctionSaturday at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 19th annual fundraising Will award gala.

His was a winning gesture in every way.

Formally known as the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the statue was handed over later to the wildly talented American-born man who now is artistic director of London’s Old Vic.

Television broadcaster Kathleen Matthews, a member of the company’s National Council, had been needling a willing audience to up the ante following her display of another cummerbund that a patron inadvertently had lost. This one was returned for a “paltry” $200.

All sums of the night, which totaled well above $400,000, went to the Shakespeare Company’s Free For All performances at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, which this season features Aeschylus’ “Pericles.” Supporters and guests were rewarded with a performance by celebrated chanteuse and actress Audra McDonald.

The company is accustomed to thinking big in “willful” terms. Its future home, the Harman Center for the Arts, will be “the most technologically advanced theater in the world,” according to its Toronto-based architect Jack Diamond.

Suzanne Farrell, artistic director of her Washington-based dance troupe, teased about the possibility of joining forces there as did Mr. Spacey in his acceptance speech, which amounted to a sermon of sorts on behalf of theatrical expression.

The actor-director, who also is considered a fine singer, quoted “power of positive thinking man” Norman Vincent Peale and praised heavily his mentor Joe Papp, the Will award’s first honoree, in 1988.

“I have seen the far-reaching effect that theater can have,” said Mr. Spacey, winner of two Academy awards. “I believe, in truth, movies don’t need my help and that theater does.”

— Ann Geracimos

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