How to Create the Full Gala Experience—Dinner, Dancing, and All—Online

Benefits and Galas   How to Create the Full Gala Experience—Dinner, Dancing, and All—Online
 
Off-Broadway theatre company The Tank innovates with a pre-show cooking class and Zoom dance party.
The Tank virtual gala key art

Yes, theatres have shut down as we take a prolonged intermission from theatre during the public health crisis. But while the mass gatherings necessary to create performances have been waylaid, so too have the mass gatherings that fund those performances: galas.

Non-profit theatres rely on annual galas—evenings full of cocktail hours, celebrity mingling, four-course meals, open bars, can’t-miss performances, auctions, and dancing—to fund their operations. In the time of virtual gatherings, organizations from The Public to Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth have taken their galas online. But with access broader than ever, how do individual institutions ensure their event is the must-attend moment?

Off-Broadway’s The Tank distinguishes itself by re-creating the full gala experience: dinner, drinks, song, and dance May 19. Inspired by Washington Performing Arts’ Virtual Gala (which included a silent auction and live auction in addition to performances), Artistic Director Meghan Finn came up with the idea to host a live cooking class before the official presentation, and a DJ’d dance party after.

Danielle Monica Long King and Meghan Finn
Danielle Monica Long King and Meghan Finn Anthony Dean

“The question was really how to create a full gala experience—one which celebrates and represents the quirky, creative, agile and resourceful personality of our organization—even while The Tank's community is currently separated from one another,” says Managing Producer Danielle King. “The Tank is fortunate to have a long relationship with Chef Jenn de la Vega of RANDWICHES.”

Guests have the option to purchase a grocery box with ingredients and wine pairing delivery as part of their gala ticket for an at-home cook-along with de la Vega. The chef, also editor-at-large of Put A Egg On It and author of Showdown: Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ, works together with her usual vendors to ensure the safety of all shipments for a healthy and delicious meal.

“We knew that our patrons and artists would love cooking alongside Jenn, and the experience of sitting in our homes and sharing the same meal with the entire community would be a one-of-a-kind, unifying, and comforting experience,” says King.

Tickets at every level include a link to the live stream ceremony. At-home chefs will log on one hour in advance to prepare the meal they can enjoy while watching the show. What’s more, prop stylist Patricia Marjorie from The Tank will teach diners to craft their own centerpieces. It’s a way to showcase the talents of the company artists and add flair to the at-home experience.

“At The Tank, creativity is our greatest resource, and in looking toward the next six months to two years, we believe it will be our creativity that helps sustain us in this new reality,” says Finn. “There is hope that, when we are all once again able to gather, we will value live performance and these events much more than we used to.”

The event honors Hadestown producer Mara Isaacs and Orange Is the New Black actor Laura Gómez, and will feature performances by Tony Award winners Denis O’Hare and Tonya Pinkins, as well as bands like PRINCESS and Stolen Jars, up-and-coming comedians, puppeteers, dancers, and more. Hosted by Andrea Coleman, the gala is shaping up to be a one-of-a-kind affair. To cap it off, attendees will be given a Zoom link to the dance party with beats by DJ Ace Boogie and featuring members of The Tank’s dance division.

“As we gather virtually—we will reflect on our connections, while in their absence, and create a joyous space full of good food, epic performance and the kind of silly fun that makes us all human and that makes The Tank all it has been and will continue to be,” says Finn.

Click here to purchase tickets to the May 19 Virtual Gala. Cooking begins at 6PM ET, with dinner and performances at 7PM, and dancing at 9PM.

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