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REP celebrates New Year’s Eve in style

Carnivale di Venzia offers masked ball splendor

Posted: January 7, 2009 8:08 p.m.
Updated: January 8, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Revelers at the REP Carnivale di Venezia include from left, Dawn Abasta, Jason Price, Amber Van Loon, Angela Illich-Owston, Ovington Michael Owston, Angela Price and George Cummings.

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Lighting up Main Street on a cold winter night, the third annual Carnivale di Venezia at the Repertory East Playhouse was the hottest place in the SCV on New Year's Eve.

In the grand tradition of a European masked ball, guests dressed up in regal splendor to party like royalty. The black tie affair included dramatic masks, music, dancing until dawn, wine, a lavish gourmet buffet and a champagne toast at midnight, proving that once again the REP's Carnivale is the most fun one can have in public on New Year's Eve. To complete the illusion, the walls of the lobby were draped in opulent fabric of red, purple and silver. The soundtrack for the evening was an eclectic mix of oldies, standards, country, dance grooves and rock.

Throughout the long evening, bottles of wine, beer and champagne flowed like fountains. Bret Engelmann, proprietor of Engelmann Cellars in Fresno ( donated the wine including an outstanding San Giovisi.

"This is the hottest and most exotic celebration in the SCV," said the REP's Artistic Director, Ovington Michael Owston. "We were sold out and had to turn people away again this year."

The partygoers proved him right as members of the Santa Clarita Valley Junior Chamber (the Jaycees) and guests filled the lobby and crowded the dance floor, made complete with smoke and dramatic theatrical lighting.

Prominent Jaycees at the party included Jason and April Price, Kristin and Todd Hampton, Tim and Jenny Ketchepaw, Dawn Abasta and Robert Pallasch. Also celebrating (and tending bar) was Jonny Schwinn and his brother, REP director Mikee Schwinn. Also seen at the festivities were Amber Van Loon, lighting designer Tim Christianson and resident sound manager, Steven "Nanook" Burkholder.

In addition to its usual suspects and loyal subscribers, the event attracted new revelers who said they were thrilled to discover the REP.

Resplendent in high hat and tales, Floyd Baxter, a retired judge of the Superior Court, attended the Carnivale with his fiancee, Fran Lallaman, who wore an elegant full-length ball gown.

"I was filling in on the court and received an invitation from the REP to the New Year's Eve party," he said. "This is fantastic, we just love the party and we fit right in with the group."
The Carnivale theme was the brainchild of Angela Illich-Owston's father, Mirko A. Ilich, a REP board member.

"My father had a vision for a magnificent masquerade ball after visiting Venice, Italy, and realized this was the time and place to hold a Carnivale," Angela Illich-Owston said. "We were considering the Hyatt Valencia or somewhere else, but realized the theater was a perfect place."

In a fitting finale to ensure the safety of all the guests, Sean Pieterse, the debonair owner of Driven2Drive Limousine Service, parked his black 2008 Mercedes Benz van limousine outside to pick up and deliver guests home safely for $20.

Not one to wait until midnight to party hearty, Owston dashed around marking off the hours by toasting New York at 9 p.m., Chicago and Michigan (his home state) at 10 p.m., Denver at 11 p.m. and of course, California at midnight.

Bill Quinn, president of the REP, said he was thrilled the third annual Carnivale was once again such a success.

"Not only has this event always met, it exceeded all expectations," he said. "We have great food, great wine and a wonderful group. We want to do something classy and elegant for the New Year and besides, we don't get to see each other dressed up very often."

Quinn said attendance was up almost 18 percent over 2007, driven by sold-out and extended runs of "Steel Magnolias," "Of Mice and Men" and the bare-all exhibition, "The Full Monty."

The REP opens its fifth season on Jan. 23 with "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Repertory East Playhouse, 24266 Main St., Newhall. For information call (661) 288-0000 or online at


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