Gina Coyle, left and Dae Spering joined me onstage for our selfie (click picture to view gallery)

Gina Coyle, left and Dae Spering joined me onstage for our selfie (click picture to view gallery)

Local lifestyle columnists

After Red Carpet Gala 2.0, I’m an emcee for hire

By From page A2 | March 17, 2014

Patty Amador, then-features editor at the Daily Republic, asked me in 2008 if I wanted to be involved in the Arty Awards that salute excellence in local theater. I thought she meant announcing an award winner.

She instead asked me to emcee.

Besides one speech class I had at Solano College and talking to imaginary friends when I was much younger (37), I had no experience whatsoever. Still, I am comfortable talking in front of people and, in fact, find it much easier to talk to a roomful of strangers rather than carry on a one-on-one conversation with someone I do not know.

I have now been the emcee for the Arty Awards for six years running and have served as emcee for many other events. I have yet to meet a microphone I didn’t like. In fact, I keep an emergency one in my truck.

Last year, I was asked to emcee the Downtown Theatre Foundation for the Arts’s inaugural March Red Carpet Gala fundraiser. As many locals know, the foundation stepped in when the city shuttered the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts in 2012.

Now, the Arty Awards always has a script, with performance introductions and stage directions. It was written by Kirsten Lunde until last year when I wrote it, so I expected the Gala to have one, too.

When I got to the theater at 4:30 p.m., Downtown Theatre Foundation for the Arts President of the Board Robert Brudney handed me a bunch of papers that had been printed off the Internet with descriptions of the shows I was going to introduce – some a whole page long. I freaked out in my head, because the show started at 6 p.m.

I furiously edited them, then winged it. It went off very well and the audience was none the wiser. This year, I wrote the script and felt more prepared.

During my opening monologue, I ripped off Ellen DeGeneres’ most-Tweeted selfie stunt she pulled when she hosted the Oscars on March 2.

The only thing was, I went to center stage and started calling for people to join me, but no one came. I guess they didn’t think I was serious. Right before it got awkward, singers/actresses/theater heroines Dae Spering and Gina Coyle jumped up on stage and saved me.

Our mugging selfie was later photoshopped into the original Ellen DeGeneres pic by actress/photographer Vicki Victoria. In it, my surprised wide-eyed facial expression appears to be a reaction to being unceremoniously goosed by Meryl Streep.

I love to engage the audience and have them participate in the evening, as opposed to just being spectators. That became easier in the second act because at intermission they offered free drinks.

Other Gala highlights :

  • Comedian Jay Lamont kicked off the show and absolutely killed. Reading a comedy act description is never funny, so suffice to say that his impersonations of hard-to-understand singers including The Bee Gees, James Brown and Prince was hysterical.
  • Watching P.U.R.E.’s Denita Pickens-Jones bouncing around and clapping along merrily backstage as the Solano Winds symphony played was awesome.
  • The hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants including Cast Iron Grill, Mankas Steakhouse and Athenian Grill were delicious. Note to self: Bring plastic pocket liners next year.
  • It was great to talk to Tamer Totah, owner of Salvio at the Rock restaurant, about how the theater has thrived since a horribly run “brainstorming” meeting by the city in 2012.
  • Seeing familiar faces such as Sandy Paz, Mayrene Bates and Mayor Harry Price was a delight, as well as meeting new people such as Heather House Executive Director Samina Masood.
  • The generosity shown by the attendees who opened up their wallets and purses during the live auction was inspiring.
  • Of course, the performances were great. In addition to the Solano Winds and North Bay Opera, Missouri Street Theatre presented delightful snippets of their upcoming season including “Tommy,” “Peter Pan” and “Bonnie & Clyde,” as well as youth theater productions of “Snow White” and “Urinetown.” Broadway veteran Jim Coleman lent his considerable talents as piano accompanist.
  • While most of my emcee gigs are volunteer, I am not adverse to payment. I accept Visa and MasterCard and hors d’oeuvres.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

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