On Friday, September 16, about 230 supporters of The Granada Theatre gathered on its stage for the second annual Legends Gala which honored Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, and Christopher Lloyd.
The event itself was overflowing with legends, with Peter MacDougall, Sara Miller McCune, and Roger Durling presenting the awards, Andrew Firestone as master of ceremonies, Anne Towbes and Gretchen Lieff as event co-chairs, and many other notables in attendance. Exceptional performances were sprinkled throughout this magical evening, starting with the Dos Pueblos Jazz Singers during the welcome reception in the foyer. Many guests mingled at an extended VIP reception in the elegant Founders’ Room, before passing through the theater where the Santa Barbara Choral Society performed. Guests then stepped onto the stage, which had been transformed into an exquisite dining venue.
A round, elevated mini-stage was created in the center of the space, giving an intimate theater-in-the-round experience for brilliant performances by the State Street Ballet and Opera Santa Barbara. Firestone effortlessly rose to the challenge of hosting in all directions, aided by a giant video screen projecting the always charming “Bachelor” throughout the space. From another stage, the Santa Barbara Symphony performed and the honorees were presented with their awards.
Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, former owners of The Granada, have contributed to the theater in countless ways, including giving $5 million for the theater’s restoration campaign, and establishing the Jurkowitz Center for Community Engagement.
The mission of the Jurkowitz Center is to ensure that the entire community is actively engaged with The Granada. It has five main programs, the largest of which is the Community Access Ticket Program which provides tickets to nonprofits serving price-sensitive groups, including youth, seniors, and veterans. There is a dual benefit - the nonprofit sells the tickets at significantly reduced prices so that those it serves can afford to attend the events, and the nonprofit gets the proceeds from the ticket sales to further its own mission. Garden Court on De La Vina, Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care, The Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara, and the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum are a few of the 20 organizations that benefit. Last year, 2,666 tickets were given away through this program.
Another program, The Granada Video Workshop, teaches teens the art of film production, and the Jurkowitz Fellows Program in Theater Arts brings students to the Granada when there is a major production for a full-day, behind-the-scenes experience.
The other two programs are Cine en Domingo which features Latin American films, and Movies that Matter with Hal Conklin. Both incorporate a live segment featuring a local organization whose work is connected to the subject matter of the film. On October 17, for example, a documentary on U.S. gospel music, Say Amen Somebody, will be preceded by a performance by the Inner Light Gospel Choir.
The next honoree, UCSB Arts & Lectures, has been bringing world-class performing artists and leading thinkers to the Granada and other venues for over 50 years. In accepting the award on behalf of Arts & Lectures, executive director Celesta Billeci emphasized the organization’s priority of making the arts accessible to all and referenced the Lynda and Bruce Thematic Learning Initiative, an outreach program featuring lectures and performances and extensive student and community interaction.
Christopher Lloyd, a longtime Santa Barbara resident, was honored for his large, outstanding body of acting work that includes the Back to the Future trilogy and the TV series Taxi.
The Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit, operates The Granada and provides production, sales and administrative support to arts organizations throughout the region, including its Historic Theatre District Partners, the Lobero Theatre and the New Vic Theatre, and The Granada’s eight resident companies: CAMA, Music Academy of the West, Opera Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Choral Society, Santa Barbara Symphony, State Street Ballet, Theater League and UCSB Arts & Lectures.
Unlike many performing arts centers in other parts of the country, The Granada does not receive ongoing financial support from local or state government. It covers only half its budget through ticket sales and earned income, relying on private funding and community support for the difference.
For more information about The Granada Theatre, go to granadasb.org.
By Gail Arnold