Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An Affair to Remember: The Mark Twain Library's First Annual Pudd'nhead Prize Gala

Friends, neighbors, and celebrities came together on Saturday, September 20th to support Redding's Mark Twain Library and honor the first ever recipient of "The Pudd'nhead Prize," cartoonist Roz Chast. Perfect September weather set the stage for a magical evening at In Situ, an 8 acre property that has been featured on HGTV's Top Ten and published in Architectural Digest and Metropolitan Home. 

The event, intended to be a celebration of creativity and wit, was the brainchild of comedian, actor, and author Michael Ian Black. Drawing inspiration from the work of Redding's own Mark Twain, the First Annual Pudd'nhead Prize was born. Roz Chast, celebrated New Yorker cartoonist and Ridgefield resident known for her wry wit and humorously neurotic characters, was the first recipient of the prize and honored guest of the evening. 

Michael Marocco, owner of In Situ, offered up his stunning property for the evening, and teamed up with Mark Twain Library Board members Jennifer Wastrom and Pam Robey to bring a fantastic idea to fruition. To say that the evening was a success is an understatement; from the first step into the garden to the last bite of dinner (catered by Bedford, New York's Dinner Thyme) and chuckle at the bantering of Michael Ian Black and Roz Chast, a truly memorable and special evening was clearly had by all. The energy in the air was full of gaiety and appreciation. 
Clockwise from top right:
William Fusco & ME, First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton, Christine Glidden & Bill King, Sandra Alvaran & Marilena Miller, Amy Nonnamacher, Betsy Higgins (Library Treasurer) & Beth Dominianni (Library Director)

125 guests spent the evening wandering the extensive gardens, enjoying drinks and live music by the swimming pool, and mingling with several celebrity guests including Alexis Bledel from Gilmore Girls and her Mad Men star husband Vincent Kartheiser, Mo Rocca of NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," and Saturday Night Live's Ana Gastayer. Notable Redding residents were also in attendance, including First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton and sculptor Babette Bloch, whose work is featured on the property. 
Top, from left to right: Alexis Bledel, Pam Robey, Brian Spears, and Vincent Kartheiser
Bottom, from left to right: Bill Keith, Ana Gasteyer, Michael Ian Black, Mo Rocca
Michael Ian Black emceed the evening; Roz Chast accepts her prize
 & signs a copy of her new memoir for Kurt Fuller of ABC's new series Manhattan Love Story

After a delicious dinner, guests gathered at the patio for the presentation of the Pudd'nhead prize (a giant spoon, suitable for consuming large doses of pudding, of course) and a signing of Roz Chast's new Memoir, "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" Live music by Kelly Mittleman, whose knowledge and enthusiasm played an important part in the planning of the event, serenaded the end of the stylish evening. 

Attending such a lovely event was an experience to remember. Having admired Roz Chast's work since middle school, it was quite exciting to tell her face to face how much her cartoons had affected me and made me feel better about my own somewhat nutty perspective on the world. Seeing Alexis Bledel in person, whose character Rory in Gilmore Girls was my teenage idol, was also an exciting part of the evening. Strolling In Situ's beautiful gardens and shaking hands with Mo Rocca felt more like a fantasy than reality. I was unable to resist chuckling when my date chose "Wet Hot American Summer" as the project to compliment Michael Ian Black on, as I'm sure Black does not see such a silly film one of his crowning achievements (though personally, I think it's a hilarious movie). 

The Mark Twain Library is an asset to the town of Redding and surrounding areas, bringing many interesting events and programs to residents. Visit their website for more information.

Image credits: 1st Block: Adam Pemberton, 2nd & 4th Blocks, Chris Burns for Mark Twain Library. For a complete gallery of photographs from the event, click here.

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