March 11th, 2014
A Roundabout Way and a Hasty Play
Two British Impresarios Honored a Single Evening
by Marshall Heyman
Mo Rocca, center, in a kickline with several Harvard undergraduates dressed up in women's clothing at the Hasty Pudding Institute gala. Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcMullan
How many British impresarios can you honor in a single evening in New York? In the case of Monday, the answer was two.
In one corner, i.e., the Hammerstein Ballroom, there was the 48-year-old Sam Mendes, the film and theater director responsible for movies like "Skyfall" and "American Beauty" as well as shows like "Shrek the Musical." He was honored by the Roundabout Theatre Company, which is producing his coming revival of "Cabaret," starring Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams.
Neil Patrick Harris and Andrew Farkas with the group. Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcMullan
In another corner, i.e., the Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Time Warner Center, there was the 52-year-old David Heyman, the film producer (no relation, we think) responsible for the "Harry Potter" oeuvre as well as, more recently, "Gravity," a winner of seven Academy Awards. Mr. Heyman was given an award—last year's, the first, went to Sony honcho Michael Lynton —called the Order of the Golden Sphinx by the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770, which provides educational and developmental support in the performing arts, cultivates young talent and, perhaps most importantly, encourages satire and comedy world-wide.
John and David Heyman Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcMullan
Mr. Mendes was honored in the same way theater galas seem to go these days: with an exceedingly long program, starting after 9 p.m., including long speeches, somewhat longer film clips and a few Sondheim songs performed under a cluster of five chandeliers.
Among the people who showed up to speak or sing on Mr. Mendes' behalf were Liam Neeson, Bernadette Peters (who Mr. Mendes directed on Broadway a decade ago in "Gypsy"), Mr. Cumming, Helen Mirren and, in a particularly short but welcome video highlight, Daniel Craig, who sang a few bars from "Cabaret."
An hour into the evening's program, titled "In Here, Life Is Beautiful," with still much more to go, a few actors and a man with an exotic drum performed excerpts from "The Tempest," and no doubt everyone in the room wished it had all been just a little bit shorter.
Or hasty, as the case may be. Because those Harvard Hasty Pudding guys sure know how to keep things moving.
Andrew and Ann Tisch with Lyor Cohen Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcMullan
Guests—including actor Courtney B. Vance, Neil Patrick Harris (this year's Hasty Pudding Man of the Year), Diane Paulus (the director of the current revival of "Pippin") and Randy Weiner (the producer of "Queen of the Night"), Andrew and Ann Tisch, literary agent David Kuhn and production designer Kevin Thompson, Mehmet and Lisa Oz, Samantha Boardman, Andrea Olshan, Marjorie Gubelmann, Billy Norwich, Steve and Deana Hanson and Franklin Leonard, the Los Angeles-based founder of the Black List, a screenwriting initiative—sat for a three-course dinner at 7 p.m. The program ended a brisk 90 minutes later.
Steve and Deana Hanson Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcMullan
"Anyone who's been to our events knows they are going to be hasty," said Andrew Farkas, the graduate chairman and Grand Sphinx of the Pudding. And hasty pudding, which tasted kind of like gingerbread, "must be eaten hot and must be eaten with ice cream," Mr. Farkas added. "Do not wait for other people at your table to be served."
There are three aspects of Hasty Pudding at Harvard. There is a social club, an a capella group called the Harvard Krokodiloes and the performing-arts arm, perhaps the most visible because of the young male undergraduates who dress up in women's clothing. "I was actually rejected by all of them," said Mr. Heyman.
Part of what made this party so amusing was that there were several of these male undergraduates outfitted in funny costumes and stubby women's heels teetering around during the cocktail hour. Ethan Hardy, for instance, a Harvard senior from Blackstone, Mass., was dressed in a silver aviator suit as a character he'd played the year before named Amelia Airhead. "She's not the brainiest pilot," Mr. Hardy said.
Karl Kopczynski, a junior from Chapel Hill, N.C., was dressed as a lady bee. "I chose it because I'm blond," he said. Wearing the outfit, complete with antennae, he looked a little like Kristen Bell. Meanwhile, David Sheynberg, a junior from Oceanside, N.Y., wore a pink dress that was more Bea Arthur circa "The Golden Girls."
"It's pretty comfy, actually," said Mr. Sheynberg. "It reminds me of my grandma, and my grandma's cool. She lives in Brooklyn."
Messrs. Sheynberg, Hardy, Kopczynski and the rest of their friends joined Mo Rocca on the stage for a cheeky number and a kickline. Later, they rapped in honor of Mr. Heyman with the chorus "David Heyman knows how to party." This isn't a diss to Shakespeare or Sondheim in any way, but it kind of put those excerpts from "The Tempest" with the exotic drum to shame.
Mr. Heyman's award came in the shape of a sphinx. He said he would put it on the mantelpiece where the Oscar he didn't win for "Gravity" might have gone. Added Mr. Farkas, "This is the oldest sphinx-related award in the New York area."
Write to Marshall Heyman at email@example.com