Park Avenue Armory Goes Epic with The Odyssey Gala

Guests enter The Penelope Lounge for cocktails – All photos Laurel Marcus

What do you get if you mix one part of a Fellini film, one part of Lion King, and one of Eyes Wide Shut? That would be “The Odyssey” – Park Avenue Armory’s annual gala, which this year was giving a lotta drama – befitting the “part palace, part industrial shed” 55,000-square-foot space known as Wade Thompson Drill Hall.

Brian Selznick, with Rebecca Taichman

The immersive pop-up event was sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis and raised almost $2 million for the Armory’s Arts Education Programs. Co-chairs were Abigail Baratta, Hélène Comfort, and Christine Mack. About 350 guests showed up on Wednesday night and turned it out (the dress code called for “something epic”) for this event celebrating, of course, one of two major ancient Greek Homeric poems.


Throughout the evening, seven vignettes with costumed dancers accompanied by an original score along with live singers (“Odysseus Revealed,” Escape from Calypso,” The Sirens,” “Battling the Cyclops,” “Surviving the Storm,” and “Finding Love,”) were presented; directed by Drama Desk award nominee Teddy Bergman of the Broadway musical “KPOP” fame. The evening concluded with a musical performance by Indie pop band MisterWives and the requisite confetti pop.

Jon Stryker, Slobodan Randjelovic, Biljana Simic

But back to the beginning: it’s a rather long trek from the entrance of The Armory to the event space, which could be a parallel to Odysseus’ journey. Upon arrival, Penelope, the queen of Ithaca, greeted us in The Penelope Lounge for cocktails. Sitting at the front of the room beside her loom, she awaited her husband Odysseus’s return from the Trojan War as dancers performed on lit elevated plinths representing suitors trying to attract her attention.


The Palomas flowed– a tequila-based cocktail with a hint of spice– and a full bar while the guests ‘fits just got more outrageous – it became tough to tell who was a performer and who was an observer. Similar to last year, the sparkle quotient did not disappoint – in fact, if anything, it was amped up — silver sequins seemed to be the way to go if, by chance, you had left your fancy headdress at home.

National Black Theatre Executive Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory & NY Live Arts Executive Director Kim Cullen

There must’ve been some sort of confusion for men (or perhaps their wives or girlfriends) about whether “something epic” meant black tie — a handful showed up tuxedoed. I overheard one such couple entering with, “Oh, it’s not black tie?” Judging by my own experience, you’re in trouble, lady. I know what it takes to get my husband to don a formalwear “monkey suit,” especially if it was deemed a needless exercise — let’s just say it would not be pretty!

Guest wearing an “epic” necklace

Wealthy benefactors of the dramatic arts mingled with more avant-garde personalities, and of course, a real housewife infiltrated the mix. If you are outside the group, it may seem rather cult-ish – the theater geeks from high school who made good, dining on the short rib with the rich and famous.

Slobodan Randjelovic, Isabel Rose & Thomas Rom

Philanthropist Jon Stryker and Architect/designer/photographer Slobodan Randjelović are the famous couple who donated a landmark gift of $15 million to the ACLU towards its work on LGBTQ and HIV issues. Speaking of coercing someone into wearing something they don’t want to: “I had to coax her into it,” Randjelović said, referring to Biljana Simic’s Rick Owens gown, which she apparently had for a while but never had to wear. I also marveled at his “Herman Munster-esque” footwear, which added considerably to his stature but did look amazingly comfortable.

Armory Avant Garde Member Arlena Olsten & Isabel Rose

Off-Broadway Actress Isabel Rose was certainly looking every inch the Grecian goddess in her white draped gown and “showstopping” headpiece. Talk about the stage and the street converging!

Arlena Olsten, of The Armory Avant-Garde’s Young Membership program – billed as a “forward-thinking group of individuals in their 20s to 40s,” did not come to play with her somewhat baffling but unforgettable mask/head attire. Arriving fashionably late to cocktails and after a minor headpiece adjustment, she made the rounds posing alone and with Ms. Rose.

Co Chairs Christine Mack, Stacey Bronfman, Jennifer Creel, Helene Comfort, Neda Nevab, Enrica Bentivoglio d’Arengi

Other notable guests and supporters of the Armory include FIT’s Dr. Joyce Brown, Serena Boardman and John Theodoracopoulos, Sonja Brand, Stacey Bronfman, Jennifer Creel, restauranteur Danny Meyer, Sana Sabbagh, David and Elizabeth Saltzman, Clemence von Mueffling, and Daisy Soros, among others.

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Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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