Scene Last Night: Clarkson for Kids, Dratch for Afghan Women

Hale House Center
Frederick Anderson, CEO and co-owner, Douglas Hannant Collection, and actress Patricia Clarkson. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Actress Patricia Clarkson’s technique for reading to children: “Be very bright and very fast,” she said last night at the Hale House Center Winter Fete at Crown, which she hosted. “Woody Allen gave me the same advice.”

Clarkson reads children’s books at the Mother Hale Learning Center in Harlem, a daycare and preschool program operated by Hale House Center.

“The kids love her, they ask her lots of questions” said Joyce Lopez-Cristescu, program coordinator, Mother Hale Learning Center.

“Improvisation is key,” Clarkson added before rejoining a huddle of guests at the bar, including Alexandra Lebenthal, chief executive officer of Lebenthal & Co., and Elissa Lumley, who runs communications at J. Christopher Capital, the firm behind the retail chain C. Wonder. Meanwhile a mustached bartender stirred up a Tom Collins made with Hangar One spiced pear-infused vodka.

The story of how Clarkson came to host the Winter Fete begins at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.

“I spotted her in the lobby,” said Frederick Anderson, the businessman behind the woman’s dress label Douglas Hannant. “We knew each other because Douglas had dressed her for some awards shows. She was reading a script.”

Anderson took her up to the balcony room over the garden, where Hannant was showing his latest collection. He also checked his BlackBerry, and made a comment about all the e-mails he was getting from Hale House Center, where he volunteers as a fundraiser. To his delight, he learned that Clarkson was already reading to children there. That’s when he asked her to host an event.

“I still have a stupid life,” Clarkson said. “but I do the best I can to give back and make something better.”

‘Blue Burqua’

In an industrial space turned theater in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Rachel Dratch and other female comedians read poems by women from Afghanistan. An excerpt from “The Blue Cage” by Arifa:

Who am I under the blue burqa?

A mother who always suffers?

A sister who lost her brother?

A wife who lost her husband? ...

Don’t look at me. I can’t help my country.

I am a prisoner under the blue burqua.

The Sunday event, “Comedians for Change,” held at Magic Futurebox, raised money for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, which leads online workshops in prose and poetry for Afghan women.

“Being able to write their stories is the first step toward having power,” Dratch said.

Dratch’s memoir, “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” comes out in April. “I started writing because I wasn’t getting any acting jobs,” she said. “Then I got surprise pregnant and I knew I had a book.” (Dratch’s son, Eli, is now a year and half old.) The book deals with life after “Saturday Night Live,” focusing on becoming a mother at the age of 44.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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