It was 1966 all over again last weekend, when a glitzy gala in the Wortham Center Grand Foyer drew nearly as many guests as the historic party it drew inspiration from. More than 400 well-heeled patrons of the arts turned out for the Society for the Performing Arts' Black and White Ball, a celebration of the organization's 50-plus years of bringing world-renowned theater to Houston, and a nod to Truman Capote's "Party of the Century."
That November night in New York City, 540 guests from all manner of diverging social circles came together for the writer's "little masked ball for Kay Graham and all of my friends," as he called it. The renowned gathering launched the oft-duplicated black-and-white theme, now a mainstay of proms and party stores but then a society novelty.
The SPA's April 6 version was a true tribute, dripping with elegance and—fittingly—theatrics. Guests donned monochromatic couture and elaborate masks, including several dozen bejeweled, feathered, and otherwise elaborate showpieces from designer David Peck. Add to that the vision from event designer Rebekah Johnson—cascading chandeliers, dangling glass orbs, swaths of ceiling drapery, towering floral displays, and the theater's dramatic 88-foot glass archway—and the scene at the Wortham could easily rival that of Capote's at the Plaza.
There was also plenty of razzle-dazzle, and no shortage of entertainment, when partygoers saw performances by three separate acts: a surprise a cappella show from Rice's all-male group, the Apollos; a selection of show tunes from the cast of Chicago, which comes to Houston this June; and after-party entertainment from Austin-based Empire 6.
Free-flowing bubbly was a major theme, too, from a Moët & Chandon raffle bar to a frequently photo-bombed balloon wall with a gold inflatable version of the quote Dom Pérignon allegedly spoke when the French monk first discovered champagne: "Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!"
Jackson & Co. served the evening's three-course meal of wedge salad, beef medallions, and a heavenly butter pecan baked Alaska. Auctioneer Jeff Smith led the record-breaking live auction that kept guests captivated thanks to tantalizing packages—like a trip to California Wine Country or a private cocktail party with Bernadette Peters (estimated value, as recorded in the program: "priceless")—but mostly the impromptu on-stage romp from a former gala chair.
Mary Ann and David McKeithan and Cheryl and Sam Byington chaired this year's gala, while Margaret Alkek Williams served as honorary chair and Rini and Edward Ziegler and H-E-B were community and corporate honorees, respectively. The grand party's grand fundraising total? More than half a million dollars.