A Noise Within repertory company raises $10 million for new home in Pasadena

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For once, there’s a bit of good news when it comes to a theater and money. A Noise Within, the classical repertory company based in Glendale, has passed the $10-million mark -- more than a month ahead of schedule -- in its capital campaign to bring in $13.3 million for its new home in Pasadena. The organization had hoped to reach the fundraising milestone in time for a planned April groundbreaking.

One key to its success was an agreement by its board of directors to match every dollar donated between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28. More than $700,000 was collected during that period, including $75,000 in the last 10 days.

‘We have a very loyal subscriber and donor base,’ said Julia Rodriguez Elliott, who with her husband, Geoff Elliott, is co-founder and co-artistic director of the 18-year-old company. ‘And we have a long-standing issue that everyone believed in -- the importance of finding a permanent home.’

She said that A Noise Within, which now leases a former Masonic hall in Glendale, has long recognized the need for ‘a lasting space’ that was large enough to accommodate its physical and artistic requirements.


‘Where we are now is wonderful and charming,’ Elliott said, ‘but it was not designed to be a theater.’ It lacks fly and wing space, for instance, and room for storage -- all of which are important to a repertory company that mounts several shows at a time.

A Noise Within tried to find a way to stay in Glendale, says Rodriguez Elliott, ‘but it became clear that the possibilities weren’t going to pan out.’ She, Elliott and their colleagues started to look in Pasadena because they liked the city’s cultural environment and its proximity to Glendale, which made it a convenient location for their patrons.

During their search they met developers David Worrell and Jeff Allen, whose firm, SMV Technology Partners, gave them land in a mixed-use project at Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa.

A Noise Within plans to construct a 33,000-square-foot facility that will include a 300-seat theater -- double the capacity in Glendale -- costume and scene shops, offices, rehearsal space, classrooms and a learning center. The building will be designed to fit behind a historic facade that is part of a complex designed by the architect Edward Durell Stone.

The company hopes to move in time to present its spring 2011 season in Pasadena.

Of course, it still must raise more than $3 million. ‘We know it’s a crazy time to hold a capital campaign,’ says Elliott.

Indeed, the rocky economy has afflicted many arts organizations, including what would have been A Noise Within’s neighbor, the Pasadena Playhouse, which closed its doors in February, citing financial problems.

‘No question it’s going to be hard work,’ Rodriguez Elliott says. ‘But we’re confident it’s going to work.’

She notes that A Noise Within has maintained a strong tradition of presenting Shakespeare, American classics and ‘that oddball piece that for whatever reason hasn’t been produced often but feels to us like a new play.’

The company has been in the black since it was founded, she adds, with money for the capital campaign coming almost equally from institutions and individuals.

‘We’ve proven we can succeed,’ she says. ‘When we started, the prediction was that we’d be around for two weeks. ‘Oh, theater in L.A.?’ people said. ‘Oh, the classics?’ ‘In Glendale? Where’s that?’ Well, we’re still here.’

-- Karen Wada