Rebecca Miller, daughter of the late really great playwright Arthur Miller, started a foundation in her father’s name a few years ago. Last night, Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper hosted the annual dinner, a small affair held in the cold, drab 2nd floor of the Kimpton Eventi Hotel on Sixth Avenue. The reason for the location? Their old west Soho setting, City Winery, is gone, set for demolition by Disney-ABC.
It didn’t matter one bit that the concrete ballroom was freezing and that you could hear construction going on outside. (Jackhammers, no less, at 9pm.) For some reason, this event works wherever you put it. Maybe it’s because Miller, who is a writer, director, mother, and wife to Daniel Day Lewis, knows the right ingredients for a successful evening. A top notch jazz combo warmed up the crowd under the aegis of Julie McBride. They swung!
So Cooper hosted, which meant making announcements and introducing guests and awards winners for the night. He wore a street suit and approached the job with enthusiasm. Honorees included Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan Lori Parks and music educator Keeshon Morrow, assistant principal and director of arts at the Repertory Company High School for Theater Arts.
There were rousing versions of Cole Porter songs from Broadway heavy weights Sutton Foster, Lena Hall, and Raul Esparza as well as a very winning Darren Criss (who performed a very endearing version of “Let’s Do It,” accompanying himself on guitar). The scene stealer of the night was Ayodele Casel, tap dancer extraordinaire who was trained by Gregory Hines. Each of the performers told an anecdote about their favorite theater teacher, as the AMF’s mission is to bring theater education to public schools.
Halfway through the dinner, the one and only Robert De Niro arrived and took his seat next to Cooper. They’d played father and son in the wonderful “Silver Linings Playbook.” Before this, Cooper had told me how in awe he was of De Niro’s performance in “The Irishman,” which he considers a masterpiece. When I told De Niro his ears must have been burning, he just smiled. How’s he enjoying Oscar season? “It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m having a good time. It’s better than the opposite.”
Cooper showed me a picture on his phone of his two and a half year old daughter, Lea, with model Irina Shayk. “She’s bi-lingual, she can speak Russian,” he said, proudly.
Later Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Angels in America,” took the mic to salute Parks. “I’m sitting at the same table as Robert De Niro,” he said. “So in your honor, Fuck Trump!” Everyone laughed.
Parks is hard at work on the 8 part “Genius” series about Aretha Franklin for Imagine TV and the Discovery Channel. Cynthia Erivo plays Aretha, Courtney B. Vance plays Aretha’s father Reverend C.L. Franklin. “We cover everything,” she said of the series, which starts shooting in Atlanta next week.
Despite being retired, Daniel Day Lewis was not in attendance. I didn’t ask about him. Miller is a powerhouse in her own right. She did tell me that her 97 year old aunt, the great actress Joan Copeland, is “looking for work.” What does she want to play, I asked? “She’s open to anything,” Miller said. Casting directors take note. She’s not kidding.