I’m thrilled that it is feeling a little more like autumn. Even a mere hint from the weather people that we might have some rain made my spirits soar. I’m still looking for that first leaf that might be orange, yellow, or burgundy so I will believe that my favorite season might be here. You just never know here in SoCal what might be in store for us — one thing for certain, we won’t have snow.
These are busy autumn social times for the folks from our town. They flutter hither and thither to attend the many offerings of autumn fundraisers that pop up like mushrooms after a rain storm. Hmm, I can smell the wet earth now — I love that rich, earthy aroma.
It was long-awaited, but the A Noise Within repertory theater company has finally come home. This revered company launched its milestone 2011-12 season and 20th anniversary with the opening of its new building in Pasadena. The gala event raised $121,000.
The opening was the culmination of an aggressive capital campaign that raised $13.5 million — an amazing accomplishment in these tough economical times. The campaign was guided by Terry Kay, a La Cañadan who is president of A Noise Within’s board of directors.
The new theater will increase its audience capacity from 25,000 to 50,000 annually and its educational program will double to 20,000 the number of students served each year.
A Noise Within is ensconced in the historic former Stuart Pharmaceutical building on Foothill Boulevard near the Gold Line’s Sierra Madre Villa Metro parking structure. The intriguing mid-century modern building was designed by celebrated architect Edward Durell Stone, known for landmark buildings around the country, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and Radio City Music Hall in New York. The building was listed on the National Register in 1998 and is surrounded by a garden designed by Thomas Church.
Beaming with joy at the post-performance dinner were A Noise Within co-founders Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott. In fact, when Julia stepped out on the stage before the performance, the audience quickly came to their feet to give her a standing ovation. Her first words were, “Welcome home.”
Geoff would have been on stage with her too, but he was backstage in makeup and costume getting ready for the company’s first performance in the new theater, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.” He played the part of Malvolio, an earnest, yet foolish suitor to the leading lady, Olivia.
The theater’s opening was quite spectacular. Guests first gathered in the theater’s courtyard and foyer sipping a drink called the Ernest Hemingway — a refreshing daiquiri with shaved ice that melted on one’s tongue like a snowflake.
The nod to Hemingway and the hors d’oeuvres of Cuban delicacies prepared by Peggy Dark’s Kitchen for Exploring Foods was because Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, director of the play, decided to brilliantly update and set this Elizabethan play in Cuba during Carnival.
After tasting the mango papaya gazpacho served in shot glasses, the fried oysters with avocado tomato salsa and the grilled shrimp with mojo sauce, the guests found their seats in the beautiful new theater to await the beginning of this raucous and amusing performance that is considered to be the Bard’s most true comedy.
At the end of the play, nearly 300 guests entered a dining tent for a fabulous dinner also prepared by The Kitchen for Exploring Foods. As guests left the theater for the gala dinner, tall torches blazed in specially designed holders led the way. The façade of the ornate building was washed in blue light — it was very dramatic.
La Cañada resident Melanie Redmond was in attendance. Melanie is the daughter of Elizabeth “Betty” Redmond and the late Charles Redmond. Betty and Charles gave a gift of $1.5 million to the campaign and the stage is named for them. Charles was also a president of the board of directors. Betty currently serves on the board of directors.
More locals in attendance were Mindy and Gene Stein, Anthony Portantino, Hilary and Bob Jacobs, Terry and Jeanie Kay, Sandy and Fred Engler, Carol and Richard Cupp and Carol Dorbacopoulos.
JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.