Hartford Courant
April 17, 2002
Hartford Stage Party:
A Little Date With Kate Before She Treks Away 

By Patricia Seremet 
It was Kate's last stand Saturday night, and it was a standing O.

Hartford Stage Company held its spring gala, this year called "Red, White & Blue: A Celebration of the American Season" at Tumblebrook Country Club in Bloomfield, and its star, Kate Mulgrew - finishing her last performance as Katharine Hepburn in "Tea At Five" in the Saturday matinee - was the honored guest.

The Mulgrew groupies had their last shot at being with this theatrical queen who swept into Hartford to do a controversial one-woman show. Then she got sick on us, left, then came back to finish. But what was there to forgive? She is the Trekky captain, after all, and we, the mere earthly mortals.

In her musky, dusky, husky voice, she told Hartford that she, Kate Mulgrew was "going out with a bang."

"I've met with a lot of boards in my life and I've been bored by a lot," she said. "But not this one."

Michael Wilson, artistic director of Hartford Stage, called her "a legend for her transcendent performance of Katharine Hepburn."

There have been offers for Mulgrew to do "Tea At Five" in New York, Cleveland and Boston, with Cleveland the likely venue with her husband, Tim Hagan, running for governor there.

It's been a little hectic and heady for Wilson lately with "Necessary Targets" and "The Carpetbagger's Children" moving from Hartford to New York.

"Actually, it's been exhilarating with so much attention on Hartford Stage," he said. "With the tragedy gripping our nation, people have been able to come together and see the real communion, fellowship and intimate personal connection that the theater offers us."

Indeed, Wilson seemed to have even more of a bounce in his step than usual - and so did the party.

Jo McKenzie, who manages the Rowlands' residence and was head to toe in red ruffles, broke away from her escort du jour, Doug Evans, head of the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, to go tete-a-tete in conversation with Peter Kelly, Hartford lawyer, lobbyist and Democratic powerhouse.

"Of course, we're talking about my beloved governor," McKenzie said, when pressed for details.

What does Kelly think of the state Democrats running for president?

"Joe's [Lieberman's] working really hard at it," he said. "And Chris [Dodd] is putting toe in the water."

(Al Gore has always been Kelly's man, needless to say.)

With the party theme saluting Hartford Stage's tribute to American playwrights, no one did it better than Marilda Ganderas, president of the Aetna Foundation, who wore an elegant flag pin and red, white and blue scarf. She is instrumental in planning this year's Veterans' Day Parade.

Despite how engaging Mulgrew is, the theater is always forward-thinking to the next show, and five women who will perform in a new production at Hartford Stage, called "Constant Star," filled the bill. They sang three African American spirituals a cappella that got a standing ovation.

People who were waiting on table got so excited by it that several said that they planned to catch them singing again Sunday morning at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

Not that anyone's counting, but the party likely raised about $100,000. Some of the more interesting auction items were a week at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, bought by Helena and Orren Tench of Wethersfield for $17,000; a guided tour of the Star Trek Enterprises studio for $2,000 each to Dr. Michael Krall and wife, Elizabeth, and to Marilda Ganderas.

Get ready to see some familiar faces at Hartford Stage. Stage board chairman David Klein of Hartford and local car dealership magnate Jeffrey Hoffman each bid about $2,000 to have walk-on roles in "A Christmas Carol"; and Katherine Lambert of Hartford and Peter Darby of Avon each paid $2,000 apiece to have walk-on parts in the play "Trip to Bountiful" with Jean Stapleton next spring.

There was talk that Jim Smith, the elegant-looking president of Webster Bank, walked away with the bargain of the night, $1,000 for a basketball signed by the University of Connecticut women's champion 2002 team. It supposedly went for at least twice that at a recent charity auction.

"Hey, he's a banker," one guest wisely pointed out.