In a show of holiday generosity, a new arts foundation on 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 business ventures mainly were 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. Other recipients and their awards, announced at a news conference at Anaheim's Pearson Park Theatre, are:
* 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 half a dozen city arts programs.
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 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, Calif., with emphasis in the city of Anaheim," according to the trust's charter.
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.
As in the past, the troupe scrambled to make ends meet this year, during which it reached the end of a three-year phase-out of city funding. But the company will finish 1991 in the black, Grove officials said Friday. The new grant also will be used to bolster the troupe's staff, down to five from 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.