Life of the Party: Les Misérables

by Laura

Friends of the Woodley House were treated to an advanced screening of the popular musical.

By Laura Wainman

Woodley House hosted its 16th annual Movie Benefit with an advanced screening of Les Miserables. (Photo by Kyle Samperton)

Since its founding in 1958, the Woodley House has taken an innovative approach to mental health recovery, by housing patients in a community-based environment. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the institution takes a nontraditional approach to fundraising as well. For the last 16 years, Woodley House has hosted an advanced screening of a popular film and uses proceeds from ticket sales to fund their programs assisting mentally ill adults. This year’s screening was of Universal Pictures’ “Les Misérables” – directed by Tom Hooper and starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe.

Kitty Kelley and Mary Margaret Valenti were among the Woodley House’s 300 guests. (Photo by Kyle Samperton)

A favorite seasonal event in Washington, the guest list was riddled with A-list names, such as Congresswoman Jane Harman, Matthew and Anne Cafritz, Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley and Mary Margaret Valenti.The evening began with a buffet reception and open bar at Pulpo in Cleveland Park. Guests nibbled on appetizers from sesame-crusted tuna skewers to butternut squash tarts, braised beef lettuce wraps, brownie cheesecake bites and more. Around 7:15, guests began to migrate across the street to the AMC Loews Uptown Theater to take their seats.

Before the widely-anticipated film screening began, guests had the honor of hearing from Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, who was this year’s Donald A. Brown Rose Award recipient for her “strong leadership in mental health recovery and longtime support of Woodley House.” Dr. Jamison is the inaugural Dalio Family Professor of Mood Disorders at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and her work in the mental health field is personal as she has struggled with psychosis since age 17.

“Woodley House is one of Washington’s life-giving but unsung monuments. It is easy for communities to turn their back on those with mental illness, but Woodley House never does. And  I always tell young people struggling with mental illness that it may be a bad disease to get, but now is a great time to get it,” said Dr. Jamison referring to the strides made in fighting the disease thanks in large part to institutions like Woodley House.

NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell acted as master of ceremonies, presenting the Rose Award to Dr. Jamison.

Following the award presentation, the audience sat with rapt attention and utter silence, save for a few sniffles, for two hours and 40-minutes as the misery of Fantine, Jean Valjean, Cosette, Éponine and the rest of the destitute Frenchmen played out on the big screen. The only laughs came at the expense of Monsieur and Madame Thénardier- innkeepers whose common thievery and one-liners provide moments of sparse comic relief in an otherwise grief-ridden film.

Les Misérables arrives in theaters on December 25.

Guests enjoyed a buffet reception and open bar at Pulpo before the film screening. (Photo by Kyle Samperton)

Related Articles