- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

“Discovering Greece” was the theme of Saturday’s Wolf Trap Ball, and the Cradle of Democracy certainly wasn’t hard to find in the capacious setting of the national park’s Filene Center — which boasts the second-largest theatrical stage in North America, bested only by the Met in New York.

The backdrop of an Ionic colonnade set against Greece’s famously blue sea and sky filled the proscenium; a golden mask of Agamemnon looked down as formally clad patrons, some 800 strong, entered the space where a ceiling-high scrim depicting a Santorini village at sunset lay directly ahead.

“The Greeks have a word for it — marvelous,” said Ambassador Alexandros Malliasin words of greeting. The gathering, he added, was “a milestone in the many connections” between the two nations.

Romantic, yes, but with the caveat that Greece this year has suffered some of the worst fire devastation in its long history — a true national disaster. “Our Katrina in terms of suffering and costs, ” Mr. Mallias noted, giving thanks “to Congress, the administration and the American people for their compassion, solidarity and assistance.”

Other positive connections between the two countries, and Wolf Trap in particular, stem from a time seven years ago when an exchange of specialists in early childhood education began on both a personal and official level. Aided by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the Greek Ministry of Education and Culture, a program was set up to help preschool teachers in Greece use the power of the performing arts “to change children’s lives,” according to Mimi Willis Flaherty, Wolf Trap’s senior education director.

Worlds come together at the annual event in many ways, since the ball traditionally raises big money — well over $500,000 was expected for the Wolf Trap Foundation’s extensive international education programs, co-chair Jacqueline Indelicato said.

Then it was on to a rich Greek-themed dinner with Greek wines served on Greek-blue tablecloths and dancing to the Odyssey orchestra. On hand, but not necessarily on the dance floor, were Cyprus Ambassador Andreas Kakouris; Denmark’s Friis Arne Petersen; former Sen. Paul Sarbanes and his wife, Christine, with their son, Rep. John Sarbanes; plus Reps. Tom DavisandJim Moran. Also present: John McLaughlin, NPR President Kevin Klose, Andrea Roane, and Christine Warnke.

— Ann Geracimos

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