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Originally published March 17, 2014 at 8:26 PM | Page modified March 17, 2014 at 9:05 PM

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Et tu, Seattle Rep? Hedgebrook fundraiser has the write stuff

Nicole Brodeur stops at the Seattle Rep’s annual gala, where outgoing Managing Director Ben Moore is honored. And Hedgebrook hosts its annual Equinox fundraiser.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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You’re asking for trouble when you put on a gala on the Ides of March.

“Wonder if we have to check our knives at the door?” quipped actor Sean Griffin, as we stood in the crush of revelers who had come to the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s annual event not only to raise money, but to honor outgoing Managing Director Ben Moore.

Ah, but there was no back-stabbing, no bloody drama. Just love for Moore, who has been at the Rep for 28 years and, unlike his predecessor, the late Peter Donnelly,leaves without a gray hair on his head, God love him.

“Never had a show canceled or missed an opening night,” Moore told me as we headed into dinner, which was held on the Rep’s stage. “Not to my knowledge, anyway.”

There to toast Moore were Peggy Scales, the former Rep casting director for whom the theater’s green room is named; Bernadine Griffin, Sean’s wife and Moore’s counterpart at the 5th Avenue Theatre; man-about-town Toby Bright; and Nancy Lee Ward, who is on the Rep board; along with Donna Cochener-Metcalfe. She and her husband, Chris , have been part of Club 2030, the theater’s young patrons group.

But they’re aging out, and the Metcalfes wondered aloud about how the theater will fill the seats with new subscribers. The goal is to attract millennials, but studies show they aren’t apt to plan, or don’t have the liberal-arts background that draws them to the theater. We shall see. (Maybe the Rep should do its next premiere over Snapchat?)

Moore’s table was filled with family, like his daughter, Lily; and friends from his block on Queen Anne, including Chris and Elizabeth Browning; and state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and her husband, Alex.

Also honoring Moore was Robert Schenkkan , whose play, “All the Way,” about LBJ’s efforts to get the Civil Rights Act passed, opened on Broadway just a couple of weeks ago and stars “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston. (Variety called it “jaw-dropping.”)

“I was in town,” Schenkkan told me. “But if I hadn’t been I would have tried to make time.”

He’s not apt to have much for a while: Schenkkan is debuting the sequel to “All the Way” — called “The Great Society” — this summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Moore leaves of legacy of donning scarves, gifting roasted nuts and, most important, mentoring young talent.

“The secret of this investment,” Moore said of mentoring, “is that all is us get better at doing our own jobs.”

The write stuff

If there were any event where Mayor Ed Murray didn’t feel the need for a security detail, it has to be Hedgebrook’s annual Equinox fundraiser.

Murray made the rounds at the brunch for the Whidbey Island women’s writing retreat on Sunday, and then headed out to First Avenue alone.

“Maybe it’s because it’s a ‘woman’s thing’ ” one tablemate quipped, using air quotes.

Not to say there wasn’t some real muscle in the room.

Dael Orlandersmith, an actress, poet and award-winning play­wright (her “Beauty’s Daughter” won an Obie in 1995) read from a piece she worked on at Hedgebrook about her alcoholic mother — painful memories that she sorted out during long walks through the woods.

“It’s the kind of place where you walk into the darkness and then into the light,” Orlandersmith told the gathering at Herban Feast.

Executive Director Amy Wheelerthanked the “righteous brothers” — the handful of men — who attended the event. They included Rick Simonsonof Elliott Bay Book Co. and Floyd Jones, a longtime friend of Hedgebrook founder Nancy Nordhoff.

Jones sat with his constant companion, Alene Moris , who founded the University of Washington Women’s Center and advised Nordhoff in 1988, when she was thinking about starting a women’s writing retreat.

“I told her to go for it,” Moris said. “She had the guts to do it. And we are all about women helping women.”

Twenty-six years later, Nordhoff is still nurturing women writers — including singers and songwriters like Choklate, who came up with a song from Hedgebrook-inspired words thrown out from the crowd: Joy. Inspire. Money. Courage.

She ended it with “Thank you for everything that you do, you do.”

And they did plenty: The event raised $116,000 — and counting.

“We’re doing well,” said Nordhoff’s daughter, Grace. “We are alive and well.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334

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