Cygnet Theatre celebrates with anniversary gala revue, raising funds for upcoming 11th season
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
Cygnet Theatre celebrated its 10th anniversary with a sold-out gala Saturday, April 20 in Old Town. With dinner and a silent auction held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant followed by a one-night-only revue of highlights from the theater company’s decade, attendees were thrilled to support local theater.
“I think we’re all lucky because we live in San Diego [and] we can all be proud we live in such a theater town,” said Tim Mulligan, co-chair of the gala. Mulligan, the chief human resources officer for San Diego Zoo Global, previously served on the Cygnet board and chaired the event with board member Doreen Black.
“Thank you all for coming and celebrating Cygnet,” Mulligan said. “It has been my pleasure to support Cygnet as a board member for six years.” Mulligan’s term on the board recently ended and he organized the gala each year of service.
The evening started with a party and silent auction at 5 p.m., with the revue at 8 p.m. at the Old Town Theatre. Before the revue, organizers held a live auction, where attendees bid on items ranging from private dinners with Cygnet staff and guests, to vacation packages.
Initial estimates show supporters that evening gave approximately $145,000, making this year’s gala the most successful in Cygnet’s history.
Helming the theater company is Artistic Director Sean Murray and Executive Director Bill Schmidt, and both said they were very thankful for the continuing support. The Company was founded in 2003 with the construction of the Rolando Theatre before moving to Old Town in 2009.
“Ten years. It’s amazing,” Schmidt said before honoring the founding board members and patrons at the anniversary gala.
Murray, who co-founded the company, said he was also touched by the evening’s support, and called the audience “dear friends.” Their response was loud and joyful.
“Thank you for coming tonight, thank you for having come for 10 years and thank you for coming, hopefully, 10 more years,” he said.
James Vasquez directed the revue, which included a medley of the company’s songs from shows past and a video montage spanning the theater’s first decade. Joining Murray on stage that night were Sandy Campbell, Manny and Melissa Fernandes, Phil Johnson, Tom Zohar and Braxton Molinaro.
“I’ve been an actor, director and choreographer for Cygnet over the years,” Vasquez said, “but whether I’m involved in the productions or not, I remain one of their biggest fans.”
Vasquez said it was difficult to choose one favorite memory from the company’s past and called opening night of “The Glass Menagerie” in 2011 particularly touching. “I wasn’t involved in the show, but it’s one of my favorites as an audience member,” he said.
For Cygnet, Vasquez’s credits include associate director and choreographer for “A Little Night Music” and a starring role in “Pageant,” among others. He directed the 2009 production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” one of their last at the Rolando Theatre.
“Hedwig” was also the company’s first production in 2003 and Murray said the show helped launch Cygnet. “We were tucked in a corner of the Aztec Village Mall in Rolando, near SDSU. Who could find us?” Murray said in a release for the 2009 production. “But the power of Hedwig brought people to us and set us off on our journey.”
Naturally, “Hedwig” was featured in Vasquez’s anniversary revue.
Vasquez said putting together the show was “heartbreaking,” as they were limited by time in what they could include. “[We] had to eliminate a lot of great songs from the evening, but the ones that … made the cut truly are some of the greatest hits,” he said. “The performers are not only some of my favorites, but most definitely Cygnet audience favorites.”
Near the end of the revue and before Murray took the stage to reprise his role from last year’s “Man of La Mancha,” Braxton Molinaro sang one of his songs from the company’s current show, “Assassins.” The play runs through Sunday, April 28 and is one of the last in the anniversary season. “Shakespeare’s R&J” by Joe Calarco concludes the season May 22 – June 16.
Money raised April 20 will go toward presenting the company’s 11th season, which opens with Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” July 5 – Aug. 18.
Following “Company,” Cygnet’s 11th season includes “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Travesties” in repertory, “WCYG Playhouse of the Air Presents A Christmas Carol,” “Maple and Vine,” “Spring Awakening,” and “The Motherf**ker with the Hat.”
Season 11 tickets are available at cygnettheatre.com or by calling 619-337-1525.