Friday, August 22, 2014

Memories Are Made of This: Friends of SCR Guilds

Martin Benson, Caroline LePlastrier and Norman A. Baker
In the early days, before South Coast Repertory moved from its home in a converted dime store on Newport Boulevard to the 4th Step Theatre in Costa Mesa, a group of arts-loving women started making noise.

End-of Season Auction
Not loud noise—they were too well-mannered for that.  But they wanted the rest of Newport Beach—and Orange County—to hear about the young theatre troupe that was producing exceptional work.

In 1974, fourteen of these enthusiasts banded together under the name Friends of SCR Guilds, working as volunteers and sponsoring fund-raising events.  By the end of the decade, membership was 180-strong with representatives from five local communities:  Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine, Inland Orange County and Huntington Valley.

And the End-of-Season Auction was in full swing.

Maureen DiDomenico, Catherine Thyen and Ann Mound.
Tana Sherwood, David Emmes and Rosemary Sieve
Daphne Walker and Doris Pascale
According to Ann Mound, an early Guilds chair, “The auction was a huge success because of the enthusiasm surrounding the event.  Everyone worked hard to get great items donated—from puppies to ponies to exotic trips, antique cars and motor boats—and we attracted so many people that we filled the Segerstrom Stage and overflowed onto the terrace.  A sound system was set up with mics so the outside crowd could bid!”

In 1980, that annual event—a variety show with silent and live auctions—raised $40,000.  “At first, we were the only game in town so everyone who was anyone attended the SCR auction,” said another early chair, Catherine Thyen.  “The event just kept on going—well into the ’80s.”

In fact, by 1985, under the leadership of Caroline LePlastier, the Guilds—which had grown to 265 members and added South County and Metro communities—threw a party to end all parties.  Titled “Calypso,” the End-of-Season Auction, featuring a steel band and limbo dancers, helped wrap up the Annual Fund Campaign with a record-breaking gift of over $110,000.

Through the years, volunteerism remained a strong arm of the Guilds.  In 1987 “Stagehand Docents” conducted tours for more than 1,800 people, Office Rescue volunteers provided over 750 hours of assistance to the SCR staff and hospitality committees hosted receptions for opening nights and seminars.

And the theatre-related parties continued—tennis tournaments and fashion shows co-sponsored with stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue; seasonal assemblies; an improv fund-raiser called “Theatre Tomorrow…Comedy Tonight,” chaired by Vickie de Reynal—events that added annually to SCR’s coffers.

During their more than 20-year span, the Guilds made a significant donation to SCR’s Annual Fund, but beyond that, Guild members added a heap of fun to everything they touched.  Who will ever forget that dynamic duo of twins, Daphne Walker and Doris Pascale, who were happy to kick up their heels onstage, singing and dancing at fund-raisers!

Some, like Doris and Daphne, are no longer with us; others have dispersed, joining donor groups like the Friends of SCR, Silver, Golden and Platinum Circles, the Gala Committee and the Board of Trustees.  Their enthusiasm still rings throughout the theatre, where they played such a big support role through its formative years and beyond.  SCR will be forever grateful.

Volunteering Today: Ushers

Today, South Coast Repertory has other volunteer opportunities, including service as an usher. More than 300 volunteer ushers assist SCR at shows by taking tickets, helping patrons to their seats, distributing programs and selling concession items and SCR merchandise. Volunteers see an entire season of theatre free-of-charge while mingling with theatregoers. Find out more information about ushering at SCR by emailing or calling (714) 708-5068.

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