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Thursday, April 30, 2015

About the Other Night: The Karen Gala

Photo: Kristine Bumphrey, Starpix
Oh what a night!

You don’t celebrate 36 years and a leader like Karen Brooks Hopkins with just any old party. You do it with dinner in a greenhouse, a champagne boat ride under the Brooklyn Bridge, a massive light show for all of Fort Greene, late night hot dog vendors, and a 2am dance off. And that’s not even including the main highlights of the night (Steve Reich! Mavis Staples! Rufus & Martha Wainwright! Illstyle & Peace Productions! Paul Simon! Laurie Anderson! The BAM Karen!). To paraphrase the guest of honor’s signature expression, the Karen Gala wasn’t a party, it was a crusade.

Duggal Greenhouse. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Gala guests arrived at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard via water taxi, land taxis, and shuttle buses ...and we spotted at least one bike. Located right on the water, the venue offered beautiful views of the East River and Williamsburg Bridge, plus some gorgeous late afternoon light. Arrangements of cherry blossoms and azaleas from Fleurs Bella only added to the beautiful setting.

Water Taxi arrival. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
The Brooklyn black tie dress code, which initially seemed like a challenge to some, proved to be excellent inspiration for the very creative attendees who showed up in an array of bright colors and bold prints. There were wooden bowties, dramatic capes, plenty of tulle, neon heels (and sneakers!), plus jumpsuits aplenty, not to mention Hopkins’ own white snakeskin ensemble from Kate Spade and diamonds from Tiffany. BAM patrons met the challenge and then some!

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
AndrewAndrew. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford
Colin Lively and Neil Kutner. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Former BAM President and Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein was in attendance, as were choreographer Bill T. Jones, gala performers Steve Reich, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, John Turturro, and Alan Rickman, as well as actor Mamie Gummer, Suzanne Vega, ABT dancer Marcelo Gomes incoming president Katy Clark, Hopkins’ family, and plenty of past BAM artists and staff, who returned to celebrate Hopkins and her legacy.

Joseph V. Melillo and Karen Brooks Hopkins. Photo: Kristine Bumphrey
Mamie Gummer and Bill T. Jones. Photo: Kristine Bumphrey, Starpix
Tim Hailand, Rufus Wainwright, and Jörn Weisbrodt, Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Bill T. Jones and Harvey Lichtenstein. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
After cocktails on the patio, gala guests headed into the greenhouse for a dinner inspired by Karen’s Maryland roots and Brooklyn home, plus remarks from BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo, Board Chair Alan Fishman, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Hopkins herself. Members of the Metropolis Ensemble provided the music, and the meal ended with gorgeous BAM cheesecake (plus chocolate babka to go!).

Karen makes the rounds at the dinner. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford
Dessert. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
To honor and celebrate Karen’s remarkable achievements, eight Brooklyn artists were commissioned to create original works celebrating the borough. Gala guests were gifted limited edition prints of these works.

Guests were then swiftly shuttled to Fort Greene, where they were greeted by the Sugartone Brass Band playing New Orleans jazz on the steps of the Peter Jay Sharp Building, which was rocking its own version of Brooklyn Black Tie: a fabulous light projection of artist Santtu Mustonen’s design commissioned specifically for the event (and used on the invitations, program, and décor), coupled with a massive KBH on the façade. The David Byrne bike racks on either side of the building were reconfigured to read Bklyn Lovz KRn and XoXoXo Bklyn.

Sugartone Brass Band Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford
Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford
Next up: the live performance component of the night, featuring many of Karen’s favorite artists. Surprise guests John Turturro and Alan Rickman emceed the program, citing facts and stats comparing BAM in 1979 (when Hopkins started her career here as an assistant in the development department) and BAM now. Steve Reich and Garry Kvistad performed Reich’s iconic Clapping Music. Martha Wainwright sang Laura Nyro. Illstyle & Peace Productions brought hip-hop and summersaults to the night. Rufus Wainwright gave Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” a Brooklyn makeover. And Mavis Staples took us there with a rousing set.

Rufus & Martha Wainwright. Photo: Kristine Bumphrey, Starpix
Mavis Staples, Photo: Kristine Bumphrey, Starpix
The live elements were interspersed with filmed performances by Laurie Anderson and Paul Simon, plus a series of very moving video tributes to Karen, featuring her family, closest friends, Joe Melillo, BAM Board Chair Alan Fishman and Vice Chair Adam E. Max, among others.

Alan Fishman took the stage to announce that the BAM endowment had surpassed $100 million, and that the next addition to the BAM campus would be named in Hopkins honor: the BAM Karen. The Institutional Radio Choir and a balloon drop rounded out the program, with many heartfelt thanks (and perhaps a few tears) from Karen.

Photo: Kristine Bumphrey, Starpix
But the night hardly ended there… After the gala was the after-gala, replete with Chinese take-out (perhaps a nod to LL Cool J and a past BAM gala?) and bars aplenty (thanks to the BAM Young Producers!) pouring cocktails, wine by Seghesio Family Vineyards, generously provided by Joe and Diane Steinberg, and beer from Newburgh Brewing Company. DJs AndrewAndrew, wearing bunny ears and their signature matching ensembles kept everyone dancing till 2am with favorites from The Bangles to Beyoncé. Illstyle & Peace Productions showed us all up with coordinated dance moves, though the Lesley Manville and the cast of Ghosts, Adam E. Max and family, and Joe Melillo gave them a serious run for their money.

AndrewAndrew. Photo: Elena Olivo
After-party in the PJS lobby. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Vintage BAM gear. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
BAM Staff and Adam E. Max. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
Late night hot dogs! Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

For more memories from the night, visit our comprehensive Picasa album, and peruse a selection of the photos on Facebook and Instagram. Share your favorite moments from the night and messages to Karen below or on social media using #KarenGala.

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