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Local Theatre Fundraiser A Huge Success

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By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic

     Dezart Performs, the Palm Springs-based theatrical group, best known for its season of professional stage readings and its Annual Play Reading Festival every April, held a highly successful fund raiser last Saturday, at the Palm Springs Women’s Club.

     The gala evening began with a VIP Reception of friends and supporters of Dezart with Joyce Bulifant, guest artist of the evening, and her husband actor/composer Roger Perry. Movie, stage and TV actress Bulifant, performed the first public presentation of her one-woman show “A Personal Tribute: Remembering Helen Hayes With Love”.  It is a beautifully rendered and lovingly performed homage to her former mother-in-law Helen Hayes (Joyce was married to Helen’s son James MacArthur)

Daniela Ryan, Executive Director, Dezart Performs, Actor/Composer Roger Perry, TV/Movie/Stage actress Joyce Bulifant, and Michael Shaw, Artistic Director, Dezart Performs meet and greet at the 2012 Gala Fund Raiser ~Photo by Clark Dugger

  Helen Hayes was often referred to as the “First Lady of the American theatre”.  She was an American icon and a very private person.  She led a privileged theatrical life with legendary American writer Charles MacArthur.

     The first question one should ask is how does one pierce the veil of celebrity and beyond, yet still render the subject warm, caring, and human?  Bulifant’s insight into the woman, who later became her mother-in-law, is full of humor, fond memories, and yes, a bit of irony, but always full of love.

      It’s not merely a theatrical performance.   Dezart’s audience last Saturday, was treated to a very personal, creative, engrossing, and thoroughly entertaining memory piece, infused with private correspondence, family photos, honesty, fairness and delivered with grace (warts and all, at times) by Ms. Bulifant.   Personal theatre pieces are always a challenge to produce.  How much and what kind of events and anecdotes to include or not to include, are always dicey decisions that must be made.  Together, with her husband Roger (who composed the music selections bridging the narrative portions), Bulifant made the right choices in sharing with the audience a compelling and entertaining evening of her life lived with an American icon – Helen Hayes.

     The delicious dinner catered by Brushfire Grill, provided the more than 80 attendees a variety of canapés during the reception, as well as several entrees as the main course; followed by desserts and beverages.  Pianist/producer/performer Derrik Lewis and Bassist Tibor Lesko, provided the gala reception and dinner invitees smooth and easy listening musical accompaniment. The “silent auction” items generated plenty of spirited bidding and the raffle prizes announced during the dinner, served to heighten and ramp up the excitement of the evening’s main entertainment moment – the personal tribute, memories, and anecdotes by Joyce Bulifant, the loving daughter-in-law of Helen Hayes.

     Dezart Performs presents its Fourth Annual Play Reading Series April 20, 21, 27, and 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Palm Springs Women’s Club.  For tickets and information call 760-322-0179.

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