It was a starry night Monday in Westport -- glittering in clear skies overhead and on the red carpet at Westport Country Playhouse at the theater's annual gala, this year honoring actress/director Phylicia Rashad and philanthropist Howard J. Aibel.
The glittering crowd posed for photos before retreating to a grandly outfitted tent for a cocktail party preceding the gala performance. While guests circulated, they also could bid on silent auction donated for the occasion, including a baroque pearl necklace, valued at $8,500, from Lux, Bond & Green, and a "Cyclone" sculpture, pegged at $2,400, by Denis Folz.
Among the marquee names attending the event, in addition to Rashad, were actor Chris Sarandon; playhouse Managing Director Michael Ross and Artistic Director Mark Lamos; Westport Arts Center Executive Director Peter Van Heerden; "A Raisin in the Sun" actors Luka Kain, Gabriel Brown and Hubert Point du Jour; Bill Scheffler, the chairman of Fairfield County Concours d'Elegance and his wife Ann Sheffer; actress Christine Andreas, and many other business and community leaders.
After the cocktail hour, the crowd was ushered into the theater for a ceremony honoring Rashad, the first African-American woman to win a Tony Award for best performance by a leading actress in a play for her portrayal of Lena Younger in the 2004 Broadway revival of "A Raisin in the Sun" -- a classic that Rashad directed on the Westport Country Playhouse stage last fall.
Rashad's talents have also been seen in Broadway musicals, on television's ground-breaking "The Cosby Show," and in world premieres of notable theatrical works by August Wilson.
The evening's co-honoree, Howard J. Aibel of Weston, arts advocate and philanthropist, was presented with the playhouse's Leadership Award.
The audience was then entertained by Broadway personalities, followed by dinner with the evening's special guests and fellow stars in the tent.