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Benefit Remarks: Guastavino's, Under the Queensboro Bridge

After a last minute change in location, last night's Parents' Association Benefit for Saint David's School was a smashing success.  The Committee, under the leadership of Co-chairs Margaret Carter and Eileen Riano, performed the impossible.  Guastavino's proved to be a scenic, open, classic New York location for the gala auction.  Our theme for the evening--Carnevale--was embraced by all 500 present.  Following are my remarks from the evening:

What a beautiful night!  Welcome.

Well now, Carnevale – Carnevale! Where things are not necessarily what they appear to be.  There’s a lot of that going around, no – things not being what they seem – the masks, the costumes, the economy.  Let’s take the festival itself.  Most people, that I know anyway, celebrate Carnevale on the day before Ash Wednesday, but not here at Saint David’s.  We’ve moved it from Fat Tuesday to a Lenten Friday; but that’s OK! Fr. Leonard can give us special dispensation, straight from Rome, I’m sure--yes, no, yes.  Things are not what they seem. 


I’ve watched it in Rio; it’s a moving party right!  A lot of this … that … here … there!  But, Rio, please! Rio has nothing on us. We move too, right, from 583 Park to the East River – things are just not what they seem!


It was all part of the plan, you know.  Perfectly orchestrated right up to the very last possible second.  We have to thank the committee for tricking us, fooling us so completely.

Being headmaster is a lot of fun; but I have to admit it has its days.  I don't know about you, but there are some days, and maybe some parts of days, when I wish I could be someone else—to wear a mask to conceal my true identity, to participate more regularly in this kind of charade.  You know, I kind of envy the Venetians.  They knew how to do this the best.  In fact, they claim to own the idea of Carnevale.  And they don't just celebrate it on Fat Tuesday.  They begin on St. Stephan's day, the day after Christmas, and party all the way through Ash Wednesday; pretending, off and on to be someone else.  In fact, many would argue that the Commedia dell'Arte defines Carnevale to this day– characters from this popular improvised live theatre of the 16 and 1700s.  Several highly celebrated characters, costumes and masks, Il Magnifico, Il Dottore, Harlequino, and Il Capitano were all created then.

Now, my problem is I can't figure out which one I am.  Harlequin: a poor character; wears colorful patched clothes and possesses a witty tongue.  He outwits all.   Now I'm neither rich nor poor, and I'd be hard pressed to outwit, outplay, or outlast anyone on Survivor.  As for colorful costumes, I have none.  But if you were to look around … you can probably think of someone who might fit this description.  Maybe they’re sitting right beside you.  Someone like …. humm, I don’t know ...

Il Capitano; the Captain.  He is a foreigner--talks more than he actually fights.  Brave in his own words, he flies off the stage at the first sign of trouble.  Foreign, I am.  As for the rest, it didn’t quite work.

Maybe Il Dottore, the Doctor, even though a medical doctor, he seldom plays one on the stage, instead impersonating a judge, a lawyer, anyone other than who he really is.  And when someone seeks his medical opinion he quickly pronounces them pregnant … regardless of gender.

None of these roles, or masks, quite work for me! So, here I am, unmasked.

Speaking of masks, two of our own will soon be wearing very different masks, masks dominated by relaxed looks and broad smiles; masks of blissful retirement.  Julie and Gabrielle.  Now tonight, we are not saying goodbye.  That will come later in the spring; but we would like to celebrate their enormous contributions.  And so we have a special final lot in tonight’s live auction: “The Gabrielle Crumlish and Julie Sykes Scholarship Fund.”  They have been so committed to the school’s efforts here that it is only fitting.  Now, I know that 100% of the trustees have all given.  I’m not sure the amount.  We’ll find out sooner or later.  There’s a lot of conversation occurring as I speak.  Our goal tonight: to get as many involved as possible.  Your participation is more important than your amount.  Whether 10 dollars or 10,000, it’s for an important cause, in the name of important people.

Alums with cards are moving around now.  Fill out a card tonight.

Other characters in the Commedia Dell’Arte that I didn’t mention are the Innamorati, the young lovers.  Aren’t we all young lovers at heart, composed of generous portions of romance, love, and poetry … now this, we can all relate to … after all it is Carnevale! … And things aren’t always what they seem. 



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