The pandemic has a way of mucking around with traditions, inspiring organizations to come up with new, creative experiences that engage audiences while still honoring the familiar.
The Herberger Theater finds itself in that place this year with its sixth annual Plated and Staged: A Herberger Theater Experience fundraiser.
Last year, it was due to happen at the end of March and it, like everything else, was canceled. A year later, the venue has had a chance to brainstorm and pivot, and the event is now combining virtual and in-person elements.
Traditionally, the event begins with a cocktail reception followed by a silent auction and a program at the Herberger. Following the program, participants would be surprised with the name of the restaurant where they would dine. Typically, around 250 people gather for this event, something making it impossible to safely follow that structure this year.
Event goes to patrons
On May 2, the Plated and Staged event will kick off with a livestream and then move on to the food portion of the night in one of three ways.
Restaurant Patio Dining: For $2,500, a group of eight will be sent to an upscale restaurant where there is outdoor dining. The meal will include a minimum of three courses and two bottles of wine (one white, one red). The restaurant will be announced at the end of the livestream.
Dinner in Your Home: For $2,200, Tom and Lin Catering will create a custom catered experience in a patron’s home for eight people. The chef will consult ahead of time with the host to create a unique menu and then serve it after the livestream to the guests. The meal will be at least four courses.
Cocktail Box: For $150, people can come by the Herberger Theater in advance and pick up a box that will include an Uber Eats gift certificate, a bottle of wine and two Herberger Theater wine glasses. The box can also be delivered to homes in Maricopa County for a $40 fee.
“Because we are still uncertain about what is going on with the pandemic, we want to be mindful of our guests that are attending,” says Laurene Austin, director of development and marketing, who is organizing the event. “Not everyone is comfortable with outdoor dining or dining in a restaurant. This is a unique, reimagined event.”
For those going to the restaurants, they won’t find out which one until it is announced in the virtual program, maintaining the element of surprise.
“They know they’re going to get an amazing experience, but they don’t know where — that idea will be intact,” Austin says.
The goal is to sell 15 restaurant tables and 15 in-home tables.
After last year’s event was canceled, an online auction was still held. The event is a fundraiser, and Austin says no one who purchased a table asked for their money back; they all donated it to the Herberger.
Youth benefit from fundraiser
The event raises money for the theater’s youth education and outreach programs that take diverse arts experiences to young people to encourage them to connect with the arts. The evening’s livestreamed 45-minute performance will have participants from some of the programs addressing the audience through prerecorded segments.
These include their free arts program for abused children and giving scholarships for theater camp to children who are homeless, abused or neglected.
“We have spots like that so people really get a good idea about the different programming and what their donations will go toward,” Austin says. She and Herberger’s CEO, Mark Mettes, will address the audience. While the meals are for ticket-holding patrons only, anyone can watch the livestreamed performance.
Austin says this sort of program is in demand, both for those who attend and those who benefit from it. Most of the youth programs had to be paused in 2020 because of the pandemic, and the Herberger continues to wrestle with how to serve the nearly 3,000 youth that it reaches out to every year.
“The arts have been decimated,” Austin says.
“It is so sad. There are just so many people who have lost their jobs or been furloughed. We want to make sure the arts come back stronger than ever. Herberger Theater is in a really good place to have this magical experience.”
Its goal is to make the arts more accessible to low-income youth through such things as free or low-cost programming. It’s funded through events like “Plated to Staged.”
Helping to achieve this goal and to make the “Plated and Staged” event so fun are sponsors including Billie Jo and Judd Herberger, Porsche of North Scottsdale, the National Bank of Arizona and Snell and Wilmer law offices.
The silent auction — which will be open to the public and take place for a few days before and after the event — includes such prizes as artwork contributed by Valley artists, staycations at local hotels, wine tasting, spa treatments, and outdoor activities like horseback riding.
The auctioneer, Brett Higgins, will also participate in the livestream event.
While the pandemic has forced the event to make changes to keep its patrons safe, the Herberger is looking forward to an evening of unique and memorable experiences for all those who want to keep its youth programs robust and thriving.
Plated and Staged: A Herberger Theater Experience
When: Sunday, May 2
Tickets: Reservations are due April 9. Tickets are available at herbergertheater.org or by calling 480.695.8190.