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Playing with the Queen of Hearts

Updated: Jan 6, 2019

It was a whirl of madness that memorable evening...

We were transported down the rabbit hole to Alice's Wonderland where fanciful characters greeted us at the 22nd annual Dinner of Note fundraiser benefitting the Kansas City Heartland Men's Chorus. I find the spectacle of Broadway shows and the inventiveness of Cirque du Soleil awe-inspiring and any chance I find to attend a show, I do. I know I'll see something that I'll tuck away in the back of my mind to recall at another time to inspire whatever creative project is at hand.

For the Dinner of Note event last fall, I had the opportunity to ideate with another fellow creative partner and talented event planner, Bobby of Bobby Kyser Events. We worked throughout the summer with a group of enthusiastic chorus member volunteers to have it prepped for the October event. As a long-time member of the Heartland Men's Chorus, I've met quite a few talented performers so we didn't have to look far to fill the cast of characters for Alice's Wonderland vision. One of several talented chorus members stepped into the roles of the Red Queen, the White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat while several other characters including Alice and The Mad Hatter came from local theater schools and community theater.

For many creative projects I do, I'll start with creating a mood board. For this theme, the mood board and costume inspiration helped to establish a fresh take on this familiar theme. That saying of "A picture is worth a thousand words" holds such truth. I intentionally curated compelling images that represented key elements of the event and captured the overall essence. I wanted something sophisticated and appropriate for an evening soirée, yet fun enough for guests that they'd be compelled to participate. I've seen Wonderland portrayed with lots of saturated and bright pastel colors but I felt having a more controlled palette helped create visual continuity. I also feel it worked better for conjuring up what an elegant and whimsical story book evening in Wonderland would be like where guests could easily immerse themselves.

"A Whirl of Madness" mood board inspiration for the 2017 Dinner of Note fundraiser theme

Costume inspiration chosen to be shown in red, gold, black & white with graphic geo patterns

Stacking the Deck for a Whimsical Evening

We borrowed inspiration from Walt Disney's animated version of the Alice in Wonderland tale and created a troop of playing card soldiers that added some uniformity to the colorful crowd. We used about 25 chorus members and chorus volunteers and put them each into playing card costumes flocked with glitter and red heart-shaped helmets. When lined up in formation on both sides of the main aisle leading into the ballroom, guests and characters like the Red Queen could process beneath arched flags raised by the deck of playing card soldiers.

Tick - Tock Chimed the Clock

Just like clockwork, the evening was off and running with a motley cast of dozens taking their places amongst the guests as they arrived. Part of what made the evening so unexpected was the talent. They not only put on makeup and costumes, but they also transformed themselves into their characters and committed to them throughout the evening. Our White Rabbit was played by the theater director at The Barstow School so I was very confident knowing he would bring his own imagination and animated energy to one of the most beloved main characters.

Off With Your Head!

Most fundraisers have that all-to-familiar stage up front in the ballroom where everyone takes a turn at the microphone. Well, we decided that we'd turn ours completely into a theater-like stage set complete with backdrop and props galore. If the speaker was, shall we say, too boring, our Queen of Hearts would command "Off With Your Head!" and the speaker had to finish up before soldiers would arrive to carry them off. Fortunately, no one lost their noggin that night.

Royal Court Jester Makes a Spectacle of Himself

When the doors swung open and guest processed into the ballroom, they were met with a towering and twirling larger-than-life court jester that was literally twelve feet off the ground standing atop a platform and wearing a wacky checkered costume that would make Elton John's outfits look lame in comparison. With wonderfully wacky music playing in the background, it was fun watching the guests visit amongst the many vignettes set up throughout the ballroom floor.

Royal court jester, Bobby Kyser, madly twirls ribbons for a whirling effect

Good Friends holding court with me - Michael Ong and Angela Hong

Dapper & Elegant guests wearing rose floral-themed evening wear ensembles

The Red Queen texting orders to her minions

Bejeweled white rabbit masks and colorful jackets made this couple's ensemble a top personal pick

The Mad Hatter's allergies aren't taking a liking amongst these huge rose flower blooms!

Alice has gotten quite comfortable and made herself at home down the rabbit hole

*Photography by Susan McSpadden

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