Theater group gets challenge grant

An anonymous Pasadena resident has pledged to match donations to help A Noise Within Classical Theatre Company complete its new venue in that city.

Because of this pledge, the company is closer to reaching its fundraising goal of $13.3 million for completing its new home for theater classics.

Community members, patrons and foundation grants have raised $11 million to date in the worst fundraising environment since the Great Depression. A Noise Within's new 'Patron-to-Patron' challenge will match donations up to $1 million.

After 20 years of performing on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, the company plans to move to its new Pasadena location on Foothill Boulevard at Sierra Madre Villa Avenue. Construction for the 300-seat theatre with offices, dressing rooms, costume shop and stage began in July.

Educational programs and outreach are very important to the theater's mission, said Co-founder and Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, who with husband Geoff Elliott created the company. A Noise Within serves more than 10,000 students in the San Gabriel Valley and greater Los Angeles. The new theater will host more than 20,000 students each year.

"For those who believe, as we do, that what ANW offers artistically and for education is a vital part of the fabric of life in Southern California, this is the time when that support is most needed," Rodriguez-Elliott said in an e-mail.

"Building a lasting institution was certainly part of the vision for what we wanted A Noise Within to be when we began," Rodriguez-Elliott said. "That being said, considering our humble beginnings, it's extraordinary to find yourself standing in the middle of this construction site and seeing that it's really becoming a reality."

The company invites patrons and community members to the construction site to see progress at Hard Hat Sundays, held the second Sunday of each month, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

"The event is a chance to see the site and understand that this 20-year dream is truly actualizing," said La Cañada resident Terry Kay. "It's unbelievable, in a really good way — you do have to pinch yourself once in a while."

Kay, president of A Noise Within's board of directors, said he is certain that, if fundraising goes as hoped, the theater will be ready for opening night next September.

"It takes every patron to step up and participate in this million-dollar challenge grant and it is the perfect opportunity to step up so we can finalize our dream to have a permanent home for classic theatre in Southern California," he said.

The company received donations from many patrons and foundations including the Eisner Foundation, Ahmanson Foundation and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.

"The theatre represents a gathering place for ideas as well as ensuring that A Noise Within's brand of classical theatre will be part of the community for years to come," said Rodriguez-Elliott. "Only a handful of organizations are keeping these great classics alive, and it's an important art form to preserve."

Kay invites others to join the 'Patron-to-Patron' Challenge.

"We're always gracious and thankful for everyone who steps up and participates," Kay said. "We are eternally grateful and we are very excited to cross the finish line with this challenge grant."

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