Every year at Splendor, the annual fundraising gala for student scholarships hosted by the Friends of Theatre + Dance and Friends of Music, there is one star that stands out from all the rest—the tables. Or more accurately, the women in the tables.
Each year, College of the Arts students wear an intricately designed costume incorporated into a rolling table designed by School of Theatre + Dance alumna Leslie Klein (B.F.A. ‘82).
“From the beginning we wanted to have students involved in Splendor whenever possible,” said Klein, who’s been designing the tables since they were created in 2009.
A member of the Friends of Theatre + Dance (FOTD) board, Klein matches the table design to the Splendor theme each year.
“With the chosen theme in mind, I try to come up with a design for each table that is related and will be attractive and fun to make,” Klein said.
The idea for the women in tables originally came from a FOTD meeting when someone had a picture of a woman in a strolling table at a lobster fest. The Friends thought it would be interesting to do something similar. The SOTD scene shop built the wooden tables, and Klein designed and made the costumes.
The inaugural theme in 2009 was “Splendor in the Park,” a nod to the School of Theatre + Dance’s production of Pride and Prejudice that year.
“The first ones were hardest to do in the spirit of the show,” Klein said. “Jane Austen doesn’t lend itself to frivolity or spectacle, but I felt it should be more special. I think they're very pretty, like a garden party.”
At the time, Splendor was hosted by the Friends of Theatre + Dance in the President’s House, allowing for three tables. The event was later relocated to the Nadine McGuire Theatre + Dance Pavilion and attendance grew significantly as the Friends of Theatre + Dance began collaborating with the Friends of Music. This meant there was only room for one, and Klein provided a dazzling black and magenta piece to match that year’s theme of “New York Nights.”
“I have really enjoyed the creative outlet making the tables has provided,” Klein said.
Other themes include the “Damn Yankees,” “Backstage Pass” and “Theatre Magic.”
Klein’s favorite piece was a mermaid table from the “Enchantment at Sea” theme because it was the most artistic for her to create. The skirt was covered in sequins and made to look like the bottom of the ocean, complete with sea creatures and another skirt of water on top. The top of the table included a fish tree wish list for the school—fish that each listed something the school needed that gala attendees could donate or purchase.
“It's a bigger story with the success of Splendor and the idea,” Klein said. “The entertainment has become the highlight of the evening because it showcases the talent produced in these colleges.”