GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Noche de Estrellas benefit was a brilliant success, raising money for GALA’s youth education programs and offering inspired performances and speeches from diverse artists who have stepped up and shown the world that Washington, DC is a hub of Latin American artistry.
Guests entered the elegant Organization of American States building for an hour of hobnobbing over champagne while a three piece jazz ensemble set the tone for the evening. (Completed in 1910, the OAS building was considered “the wonder of its time,” and indeed, its beauty is remarkable.) Silent auction items ranging from a Lladro sculpture to weekend getaways were laid out for guests to bid on as they enjoyed the elegant atmosphere of the OAS foyer, filled to capacity with women in stylish dresses and men dressed to impress.
Master of Ceremonies Alejandro Negron kicked off the night’s festivities, preparing guests for a night of speeches from guests of honor Carla Hubner, Joseph and Lynne Horning and Jaime Camil. Waiters briskly served the first course of the meal as attendees settled into the ornate dining room, with its jaw-dropping vaulted ceiling, detailed moldings and floor to ceiling curtains of a sky-blue velvet. The flags of Latin American nations on each side of the stage made a fitting backdrop to an evening celebrating multiculturalism in a building dedicated to solidarity and diplomacy.
Special thanks were given to the Ambassadors of El Salvador and Ecuador to the US who were in attendance. And special guest Luis Salgado, director and choreographer of GALA’s recent smash hit production of In the Heights, received an enthusiastic round of applause.
The first performer of the night was Anamer Castrello, the acclaimed mezzo-soprano originally from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Castrello delighted the room with renditions of two pieces that displayed the rich expressivity of her voice. It was the performance of a diva and well deserving of accolades and applause.
Carla Hubner accepted the evening’s first award with grace and humility. A concert pianist who has performed in the US, Europe, and Latin America, Carla received the Service to the Arts award for her work as Founder and Artistic Director of The In Series, a series that seeks to create innovative programming with opera at its core. Reminding the audience that despite her Germanic sounding name, she is actually Chilean of origin, Hubner reaffirmed her belief that artists must always support the next generation of performers.
The second performance of the evening seemed to start off with a thunderclap as Flamenco Dancer Edwin Aparicio and members of the Flamenco Aparicio Dance Company took to the stage. With the subtle flick of a wrist and the seismic stomp of his foot, Aparicio performed a dance so apasionado that even a king would take notice. Indeed, King Felipe VI of Spain granted Aparicio the Cross of the Order of Civil Merit. Aparicio’s performance built in intensity until the final hand clap was greeted with a standing ovation and spontaneous howls of delight.
GALA’s own Rebecca Medrano introduced the second award recipients of the evening, Lynne and Joseph Horning for Philanthropy in the Arts and Social Services. There is clearly a lot of shared history between the Medranos and the Hornings, and Joseph Horning spoke of their collaborative efforts to restore the Tivoli Theatre, which had been sitting idle as a relic from the 1920s for decades before they joined efforts in restoring it and creating GALA Theatre’s home in Washington, DC. Lynne Horning spoke movingly about the importance of GALA Theatre’s unparalleled educational programs.
The last performance of the evening was by Felicia Miranda, a student at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts who enchanted the audience with her delightful singing and ukelele playing.
Then it was time for the final award of the night: The Artistic Excellence and Inspiration Award, presented to Jaime Camil, the star of The CW Network program Jane the Virgin. GALA Artistic Director Hugo Medrano presented the award himself, after speaking eloquently to Jaime Camil’s many artistic achievements in films, TV shows and musical theater productions throughout the US and Latin America.
Jaime took to the stage amidst a standing ovation. He thanked GALA theater showcasing the best that Latinos can be for over 30 years and working hard to reverse stereotypes and offensive labels of Latinos.
Camil’s speech highlighted his belief that as a Latin American performer, his success comes with the moral obligation to help others, and especially young people, rise up as well. If artists achieve fame, he said, they have a responsibility to future generations to be exemplary and conduct themselves honorably in order to be an advocate for all segregated groups.
It was a real honor to participate in GALA Hispanic Theatre’s annual benefit and to meet so many exemplary Latin American artists who work not out of ego but with a determination to reverse stereotypes, empower other Latinos and shine a spotlight on the best in their community.
GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Noche de Estrellas took place on Monday, June 5, 2017 at the Organization of American States – 200 17th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For more information about GALA Hispanic Theatre’s upcoming events, go online.
Report #1: ‘Callado Conmigo (Silenced Within Me) at GALA Hispanic Theatre. By Ravelle Brickman