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A Noise Within to break ground Tuesday

July 19, 2010

Looking west along building's front

It seems almost implausible: a theatre company raises $10 million in two-and-a-half years – during a recession. While it has just over $3 million more to raise, the company breaks ground on its new space on Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Its move from Glendale to Pasadena could not have materialized without an extraordinary effort by co-founders and co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, their board, and many people within the cities of Glendale and Pasadena. “And,” says Geoff, “it’s being built on land donated by SMV Technologies.” [David Worrell and Jeff Allen, partners.]

Once occupied by Stuart Pharmaceuticals, the land is on the southeast corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue, adjacent to a Metro Goldline stop. The existing structure, which is now residential, will be kept largely in tact. It won the prestigious American Institute of Architecture’s (AIA) Honor Award and appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1958.

Julia says, “Looking at it, you think, my goodness, it’s amazing we’re this close to realizing the vision of the organization. Of course, we’re still dealing with everything that has to happen to complete the project, too, but when you step back, there’s a sense of joy about it all.”

Geoff laughs. “So often, maybe every morning, we look at each other and remind each other that this is amazing. We say, ‘Wow! Wow! We’re actually going to break ground.”

“The capital project is like a play that never opens!” Julia adds. “There are things you can’t possibly predict,” Geoff notes. “It’s really the University of Life. Given the different complexities, along with the actual raising of money, you just can’t study for this. Even if we read a hundred books on the subject, I don’t think it would have prepared us for what we’ve had to wrestle with these past 3 years.”

Raising money, meeting with architects and developers and city officials, while running a successful theatre company is a delicate balancing act. Julia says, “It’s had an effect in the day to day running of the organization, no question. I haven’t directed in a year.”

“And I’ve directed more than I have in the past,” adds Geoff. “Julia has been more active and immersed in the financial aspect of this than I have. But we’ve also had extraordinary partners. Terry Kay [Board President and Capital Campaign Chair], and several key members of our board, [Pasadena] Mayor Bill Bogaard and city council and staff, and the owners of the land – we’ve been able to go to everyone on this team and work through challenges.”

How many times has the couple come close to giving up? “There have probably been a dozen times when we looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, I don’t think this is going to happen. This is a speed bump that we might not get over,” Geoff says. Or worse, “This might be more of a wall than a speed bump! But these things have passed every time. We’ve been able to get over, under or around them with the help of other people and, I think, with the help of the strength of the mission of what we’re doing. Again and again, it seems the value of the programs here and the production of classical theatre and the education programs we offer have made the difference of us looking at each other and saying, ‘This is too valuable to give up on.'”

Julia agrees. “That mission and what it is we do is bigger than us, so we just had to have faith that it finds its way.”

The new space will seat 300; no one will be more than 8 rows from the stage. It’s due to open in the fall of 2011. You can find more information on ANW’s website.

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