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A Guiding Light, Guild Hall

Originally Posted: June 25, 2008

Brian Kelly

Kristina Klug, Tiffany & Company East Hampton Store Manager and Ruth S. Appelhof, Ph.D, Executive Director Guild Hall with Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch who performed at the Guild Hall Summer Opener at East Hampton Point. Photo by Barry Gordin

The crowd sauntered in on Friday evening to the elegant five-acre resort, East Hampton Point, with their bright summer colors and even brighter smiles. The occasion - the ceremonial opening night for the 76-year-old arts center, Guild Hall, featuring two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole ("Grey Gardens" and "42nd Street") and famed jazz pianist-singer Billy Stritch ("42nd Street") who performed an array of jazz, pop, and Broadway musical numbers.

Walking through the interior of this candlelit nautical-themed cocktail hour, and then out on to the deck, which was framed by a soft bulbous sunset, there was a sense of the quiet anticipation that precedes every great performance. "Tonight just feels right," said a woman, wearing a blue silk dress, to the busy bartender, who was effortlessly keeping the guests more than satisfied, as a medley of hors d'oeuvres was kept in constant circulation by way of their on-site staff.

Ebersole also seemed to be in the most pleasant of moods as she walked around greeting her guests and thanking them for their support. Her composed and infectious glow, as she milled about, had the entire room almost in a swoon, and sure enough a variety of sources were there to capture this moment as the cameras snapped their endless flash.

And a few moments before she stepped on to the stage to take some official press photos - the stage lit and set with a beautiful grand piano on the outer deck amid the cool bay breeze - she offered her sentiments on this event, "I'm really excited for this show, and am really thrilled to be a part of something as wonderful as Guild Hall, and the entire community that supports it."

Guild Hall has maintained its status as the epicenter for arts in East Hampton, providing a very robust and wide mix of entertainment for this upcoming season, despite the fact their theater is still in the process of renovating itself. Barbara Jo Howard, Director of Marketing & Communications, commented, "The center has always been about art and learning and inspiring, and it was important for us to continue forth with a comprehensive schedule, even if we're undergoing a restoration."

The restoration will come complete with new AV and mechanical systems, sound system, digitized lighting controls, motorized rigging lighting, and renovation of the technical booths. Josh Gladstone, the artistic director of the John Drew Theater, said the theater is going to have the look and feel of a 1930s theater, but with all the amenities of a modern theater. "It's going to be like a big circus tent with all new seating, and new aisle lighting, improved acoustics and a state-of-the-art geo-thermal heating system which is environmentally friendly. It's a big project, but it is moving along nicely and we're really excited for our grand re-opening."

The John Drew Theater is set to re-open in December of 2008 with a show that will celebrate the winter solstice, and will feature many of the neighboring schools participating in a 12-day festival called, "Rebels." By the summer of 2009, there will be a grand re-opening with an assortment of special guests and celebrities yet to be determined. In the meanwhile, the schedule for this summer is brimming with enough talent to keep the community from ever growing restless.

The selection of programs covers all major forms of media: film, theater, dance, literature, and the visual arts. To begin, there is a continuing series of world films entitled, "Re-discovering World Cinema," which will be shown every week and will display the masters of the 20th century. The showcase was selected by Gavin Weisen, film aficionado, and will include films by Bergman, Truffaut, Weir, and many others, all are part of the gems from the Janus Collection. Each film will include an introduction and a discussion of the narrative afterwards.

For devotees of the literary arts, the 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner gave a well-received reading this past Sunday at the Boots Lamb Education Center when he read from his latest book "Failure." He will also be introducing acclaimed poet Grace Schulman on August 10 when she reads from her recent collection "The Broken String."

To lighten the season, comedienne Judy Gold will be doing some of her famous standup in mid-July at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons. But, if you don't want to laugh too hard, and you're seeking beauty in the form of the body and dance, there is always the American Ballet Theater, or the Jennifer Muller dance company performing in the upcoming months at the private estates of some generous community members. In addition to this, there will be a host of major theater performances, gallery offerings, and educational opportunities and classes for both adults and children.

Guild Hall continues to make an effort to keep this community both informed and wildly entertained.

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