Orange County Arts Awarded $1 Million : Grants: The Leo Freedman Foundation's awards benefit 12 groups and programs, including $250,000 for Grove Shakespeare Festival, the troupe's largest gift ever.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a show of post-Christmas munificence, a new arts foundation Friday awarded a total of nearly $1 million to a dozen Orange County arts groups and programs, including $250,000 to the Grove Shakespeare Festival, the troupe's largest gift ever.

The Leo Freedman Foundation, which also gave $250,000 to the Orange County Performing Arts Center, was established by Leo Freedman of Beverly Hills, an arts patron and real estate developer who died in 1989 and whose ventures were mainly in Anaheim. This is the first year the trust has awarded grants, which it plans to do annually to the tune of at least $500,000, trust officials said.

In all, the foundation awarded $950,336. Grant recipients and their awards were announced at a news conference at Anaheim's Pearson Park Theatre, attended by about 150 city and county officials, arts groups representatives and members of the public.

The following organizations also received grants:

* The Buena Park Fine Arts Commission, $15,000.

* Laguna Playhouse, $12,500.

* South Coast Repertory, $10,000.

* Orange County Symphony of Garden Grove, $10,000.

* Pacific Symphony, $10,000.

Designed to emphasize grant-giving to arts groups and activities in Anaheim, the foundation also gave a total of $392,836 to the following community arts programs in the city:

* 1992 and 1993 summer programming at Pearson Park Theatre, $123,418 for each season.

* The Anaheim Dance and Drama for Youth Program, $50,000.

* The Anaheim Musical Arts for Youth Program, $45,000.

* The Anaheim Senior Citizens Performing Arts Group Program, $26,000.

* The Anaheim Educational Crafts for Youth Program, $25,000.

Freedman formed the trust, which has assets exceeding $12 million, before his death in April, 1989. His projects in Anaheim included the Grand Hotel and Anaheim Plaza Resort Hotel (formerly the Anaheim Hyatt).

An avid lover of musical theater, Freedman also built the Celebrity Theatre, initially named Freedman Forum before the building was leased to the Phoenix-based operators of the Celebrity. He also created Anaheim's Melodyland Theatre in 1962, another in-the-round facility where Broadway shows were staged until it closed in 1968 and subsequently became the Melodyland Christian Center.

The foundation's income is to be used "exclusively for charitable, literary and/or educational purposes, and specifically . . . for the promotion and furtherance of the arts, theater, music and dance throughout Orange County, California, with emphasis in the city of Anaheim," according to the trust's charter.

The trust was able to make its first grants this year with cash generated from the sale of the Anaheim Plaza Resort Hotel, said Los Angeles attorney Ellis Stern, one of three foundation trustees. Until now, "we were not able to generate enough money to fund gifts . . . because all our (assets were in) real property," Stern said.

In selecting the grant recipients after an application process, "we thought we (chose) a broad mix of charitable endeavors, and at the same time we thought (it) was an appropriate mix between Anaheim and the rest of Orange County, because the trust provides for both," said Stern, a partner in the Beverly Hills law firm of Stern & Goldberg, who said he was Freedman's attorney for 15 years.

The Grove Shakespeare Festival, based in Garden Grove, will use its money to help underwrite its 1992 season, officials said. Dubbed "Great Shakes Alive!" the six-play season will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's emergence as a major literary force in London.

"We were particularly impressed with them simply through word of mouth," Stern said. "We inquired from other charitable endeavors and the Grove had only good things said about it."

As in the past, the troupe scrambled to make ends meet this year, during which it reached the end of a three-year phaseout of city funding. But the company will finish 1991 in the black, Grove officials said Friday. The new grant will also be used to bolster the troupe's staff, down to five from a total of 12 three years ago. Three new staffers will be added in 1992, managing director Barbara Hammerman said.

The Performing Arts Center requested foundation funds for an Informally Yours Program and the Imagination Celebration--two national outreach and education activities it sponsors locally--and for its classical ballet series.

The Freedman grant will put the Center's 1991 fund-raising over the record $5 million raised in 1990, comfortably bridging the annual gap between expenses and box-office revenue, Center President Thomas R. Kendrick said at Friday's conference.

The funding to Pearson Park Theatre will enable it to re-establish its summer concert programs, which were cut when the Anaheim city budget was slashed by a total of $9 million in August, said a city spokesman. The 11-week summer seasons, for youths and adults, include dance, theater and music.

All grants to Anaheim groups will be given to the Anaheim Community Foundation to administer. It will contract with the Anaheim Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department to provide programming.

The other grant recipients, all of which were awarded the full amounts they requested, will use the money either for artistic programming or outreach and education efforts, officials said.

Freedman was a "great lover of the theater and the arts" who footed the entire bill for the $8-million Freedman Forum and underwrote its first production, "42nd Street," which opened in January, 1987, Stern said. Days before, he told The Times of his plans to offer Broadway musicals and Las Vegas-style musical acts there.

"I'm bringing culture to Orange County," Freedman declared.

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