AetheriA Fundraiser with Willie Nelson, Morgan Fairchild, Kinky Friedman, Jessica Simpson, Larry Hagman

GRAND PRAIRIE – It was billed as an “artclectic” evening, but by the end, it was so much more. For almost four hours, the show known as Aetheria indulged its 2,000 patrons as much as it entertained them. In an age of pre-packaged productions, this baby was anything but.Call it an evening of surprise, stimulation and fun.Drawn to the stage as Texans who began their own careers as kids themselves, Willie Nelson, Jessica Simpson, Morgan Fairchild, Kinky Friedman and Larry Hagman all showed up to help make Saturday night’s fundraiser for the arts at Nokia Theatre as cool as it turned out to be.

But as the night drew to a close, the crowd had been fed what amounted to a high-end artistic buffet, with samplings of Cirque du Soleil, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Living Opera and some very talented young singers mentored by Linda Septien, who once served as Jessica Simpson’s voice coach.

Aetheria is the creation of David Anderson, 50, and Darrin Davis, 36, who share more than a partnership in a charitable endeavor. They are also life partners who, Mr. Anderson says, “just want to give back to the arts community.”

Besides being Mr. Nelson’s road manager for 32 years, Mr. Anderson is a painter, whose creations were available for viewing in the Nokia lobby. Mr. Davis is a choreographer and a singer.

“We both live here,” says Mr. Anderson, who grew up in Highland Park but has always wondered why devotees of the arts felt compelled to go to the West or East Coast to experience events “like tonight. You may be a Cirque fan, or a Willie fan, but there’s not necessarily crossover, which is why we brought everyone together on one stage.”

Aetheria is designed to raise money for scholarships, which will be awarded later this year to high school students planning to major in the arts. The shindig began with a VIP dinner at $1,000 a plate. Tickets for the general audience began at $54.

One special guest was Amanda Dunbar, a world-famous artist whose education began in the Dallas area and who continues to give back by teaching local kids. She’s an example, organizers say, of the kind of talent Aetheria hopes to nurture.

Mr. Nelson, who did terrific versions of “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “Crazy” while backed by the Fort Worth Symphony, says he chose to get involved because of his friendship with Mr. Anderson. But he also agreed to help because of his own deep belief in funding of the arts. “The more of that that can happen, the better off we all are,” says Mr. Nelson.

Mr. Friedman, the recent gubernatorial candidate, chose to help Aetheria, believing that emphasis on the arts “is what’s missing from education. It’s what the TAKS test doesn’t test you on.”

Actress Morgan Fairchild came all the way from Los Angeles because she identified with the cause. Ms. Fairchild started out as a shy kid in Lake Highlands whose life turned around with her immersion in theater, at such venues as Theatre Three and the Dallas Theater Center.

“I just want to pass that along,” she says, “so that other children and young adults in the arts – whatever version of the arts it is – get the same opportunity that I got.”

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