Riverside Theatre Friends “meet” Ann Landers

VERO BEACH — The Riverside Theatre Friends Luncheon took guests back in time to the post World War II era, where no woman worth her meddle would even think of leaving the house without her gloves.

Fashioning their appearance to match the 1950s and 1960s, the height of the Ann Landers years, co-chairs Susan Moore and Jan Tily were draped in fur stoles and white gloves as they greeted arrivals at the door. Bright fuchsia tablecloths and napkins were offset by most unusual centerpieces, consisting of black manual typewriters, black rotary dial phones, pencil cups and books.  The creativity continued, with typed sheets of actual ‘Dear Ann Landers’ questions and answers in the typewriters, and printed quotes at each place setting.

“I’m so excited about this luncheon,” said Moore.  “Having a play like this is an ideal fundraiser for Riverside Theatre.  All the ladies of our generation loved Ann Landers; we can identify with her.  She said it like it was.”

“I just found a box of wedding pictures and her column was right there, next to the announcement,” said Tily.

The ladies credited Props Director Richard Mason as the man responsible for gathering all the centerpiece paraphernalia.

“He and Alaina Haas started working on all this over the summer,” said Moore.

When asked how he had accumulated the items, Mason explained, “Half of the typewriters came from our props inventory, some I bought on EBay and others came from the Vero Beach Theatre Guild and Vero Typewriter,” said Mason.  “Most of the black phones came from the Saint Edward’s prop department.  It’s a matter of having a good network of contacts.”

As guests mingled, volunteers offered tickets to a raffle, with the opportunity to win 18k white gold and diamond earrings, donated by Le Classique Jewelers, a Caribbean cocktail party for 50 guests, donated by Elizabeth Kennedy & Co. and Maison Martinique, and a private moving screening and Italian feast for 50 guests, donated by the Starr Family, Majestic Theatre and Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

The sold-out crowd of more than 400 women dined on an elegant lunch catered by Elizabeth Kennedy which featured vichyssoise in little glass cups, a salad with dilled shrimp, avocado and spinach, and a lush coconut cake for dessert.

Following lunch, guests filtered into the Stark Mainstage for a special presentation of the play, The Lady With all the Answers, with Charlotte Booker playing the part of Ann Landers.

Allen Cornell, Riverside Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, welcomed the ladies to what he described as “the ultimate ladies matinee.”

Cornell related that when he learned Charlotte Booker was starring in The Lady with all the Answers, he presented it to the Friends Committee who jumped at the chance.  Booker had last graced the Riverside stage 20 years ago, when she starred in a production of Same Time Next Year.

The one-woman show gave an intimate glimpse of Eppie Lederer, aka Ann Landers, America’s favorite advice columnist and twin sister of Dear Abby columnist Pauline Phillips.  Interspersed with reading a few of her favorite letters, covering questions from life and death to manners and morals, she admits to having writers block when it comes to the all-important column stuck in her typewriter.

While the play frequently had the audience laughing and nodding their heads in recognition of age-old social dilemmas such as the “tissue issue” (which direction the toilet paper should go), we do eventually learn why her current column is such a dilemma.  Eppie has decided not to take her own decade’s long advice when she finds out that her husband of 36 years has fallen in love with another woman. {igallery 303}


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