Love was in the air, but on stage, competition was fierce at Stage West Theatre's Acting with the Stars fundraising gala on Valentine's night.
Several hundred guests, many sporting Valentine's red and pink, gathered at the Fort Worth Club for the annual black-tie optional affair. They bid early and often — for the first time, via smartphones — on dozens of silent auction items while sipping beer, wine, and cocktails. Those feeling playful mugged for the camera at an interactive photo booth provided by Awww Snap.
Stage West executive producer Dana Schultes welcomed guests inside the Horizon Ballroom, where tables had been set with sparkly red hearts and twinkling candles by designers Aaron Patrick DeClerk and Linda Turner. Lindt chocolate truffles and red carnations graced the place settings as party favors. Guitarist Chris Dunklin serenaded guests during a three-course dinner of Caesar salad, pecan-crusted chicken, and Key lime pie. Then, after a lightning-speed live auction of six big-ticket trips and tickets, the title event began.
Each year since 2012, Stage West's friendly competition has paired actors and directors with local celebrities to perform short scenes from real plays. This year, the final and Grand Championship edition featured an all-star matchup of past winners: Jeffrey Halstead, Bo Soderbergh, Janice Knebl, Don Mills, Therese Moncrief, and Eva Bonilla. A cast of celebrity alumni contestants, including Ann Zadeh, Brad Sham, and J.R. Labbe, introduced each scene.
Once the competition ended, guests got to work, casting one vote each and (legally) purchasing more for $5 each. After ballots were collected and votes were tallied, event honorary chair Bronson Davis took the stage to announce the winners. Second runner-up was Mills, with actor Amber Devlin and director Alan Shorter in a scene from The Magnificent Yankee. First runner-up went to Halstead, who performed a scene from First Date (which included some impressive singing) with Schultes and director Robin Armstrong.
Earning the title of Grand Champion was Moncrief, who won with actor Stan Graner and director Richard Allen for a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. She took home a beautiful custom glass sculpture made by artist Clifton Crawford of SiNaCa Studios.
The real winner of the night, though, was Stage West, which saw sweet success with more than $61,000 raised for its many projects and educational initiatives.