September 24, 2008

Stage Moves into Santa Monica

It's been 10 years aborning, but a state-of-the-art Santa Monica College center for the performing arts opened on Saturday night with an inaugural concert starring the amazing and durable thrush, Barbara Cook.

In honor of the $10 million gift from the Eli and Edye Broad Foundation, the new modernist steel, stone, glass and wood venues - designed by Santa Monica architect Renzo Zecchetto - have been named the Broad Stage and the Edye Second Space. The Broad Stage, a first for the Westside, is an intimate 499-seat theater that will present performances under the leadership of its champion and artistic director, former opera singer Dale Franzen and her longtime collaborator, Dustin Hoffman. The Edye is an adjacent black box theater that will allow for readings, plays and other small- audience offerings.

The idea for the $45-million center was first raised nearly a decade ago at a dinner party given by Piedad Robertson, then- president of the college. The Broads made their commitment last year, after seeing the new complex under construction along Santa Monica Boulevard. Initially, Eli Broad insisted that one of the new theater spaces be named after Hoffman, who is a SMC and Pasadena Playhouse alumnus. (He dropped out of SMC due to poor grades, and upon graduation from the playhouse, he and fellow

student Gene Hackman were voted "The Least Likely to Succeed.")

The Broads were ultimately persuaded to have the venues named after them, making this performing arts center the first they have allowed to bear their name. "Edye loves the theater and after 53 years of marriage,

I wanted to honor her by naming the second space 'The Edye,"' said Broad.

Hoffman, who chairs the center's artistic advisory board, has been involved with the design from the get-go as the voice of exper-

ience. He even advised

Zecchetto to install a convenient off-stage bathroom for artists with nervous stomachs. The handy facility is named in his honor.

The spacious ladies' restroom, off the lobby, is a gift from benefactor, Ginny Mancini, wife of the late Henry Mancini.

Jill Baldauf, Jennifer Diener and Pasadena native Alison Bryan Crowell co-chaired the festivities that began at sunset with a lavish pre-concert buffet served al fresco by Along Came Mary caterers. It was followed by a lively after-party in The Edye, with KCRW deejay Tom Schnabel.

In the crowd were Echo and Chui L. Tsang, SMC president; Rob Rader, SMC board of trustees chairman; Bud and Piedad Robertson, SMC president emerita; Lisa Hoffman, Don Franzen, Richard Crowell, Eva and Marc Stern, Elizabeth and Dennis Tito, Lily Tartikoff and Bruce Karatz, Royce Diener, Sukey and Gil Garcetti, Debbie and Bob Graziano, Elizabeth Levitt Hirsch, Debbie Allen, Mary Hayley and Selim Zilkha, Betty White, Melissa Manchester, Rebecca Pidgeon and David Mamet. Among the locals spotted were Alison Crowell's mother, Frances Bryan, Nancy Baxter with Tim Hoy, Rita Prudenz and Lyn Spector.

It was quite a night.


Harkening back to the early days of Arabella and Henry Huntington, this year's Huntington Ball, "The Generous Legacy: Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future," took its theme from the time when their vast ranch had acres of commercial fruit and avocado groves. The traditional swank soiree for members of the Society of Fellows was held on the terrace of the Huntington's former home, now the Huntington Gallery that once overlooked Mr. Huntington's fruit orchard for the household. Established around 1907, it provided almost every conceivable type of fruit or berry that could be grown in this climate.

Florist Jacob Maarse carried out the citrus motif with tables draped in citrine cloth. The centerpieces replicated the old Huntington ranch orange crates and were filled with roses, orchids, calla lilies, coxcomb, oranges and avocados.

Following dinner created by Jackson catering, guests danced to the music of Art Deco on the east lawn, once the site of the orange grove.

Heather Haaga of La Ca ada Flintridge and her daughter, Blythe Haaga of Chicago, who co-chaired this year's ball, report that more than $250,000 was raised to preserve the Huntington's gift to the world, their priceless collections.

In homage to the guest of honor, white-armored "Star Wars" storm troopers and the famous droid, "Artoo-Detoo," were on hand Sept. 13 when award-winning composer John Williams conducted The Orchestras of Pasadena at the Ambassador Auditorium in a concert of his own, "Music That Made the Movies."

The evening, which included a post-performance dinner catered by the Smith Brothers on the Ambassador Plaza, honored James F. McNulty, chairman of Pasadena-based Parsons Corp. and a dedicated supporter of the Pasadena POPS. Also in attendance were veteran producer Norman Lear, Rep. Adam Schiff, and 400 students from the Pasadena and Los Angeles unified school districts, their parents, and participants in The Orchestras Pasadena's Side by Side music education programs.

Williams dazzled the audience with his old crowd-pleasers: "Bugler's Dream/Olympic Fanfare," the theme from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, along with excerpts from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the "Harry Potter" films, "Memoirs of a Geisha,""Indiana Jones,""The Adventures of Mutt,""Raiders March,""Schindler's List" and "E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial." Familiar selections from "Star Wars" closed the concert with the last of five standing ovations.

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