Board Chair Palmer Jackson Jr. and Carol Burnett (Legends Award recipient) | Credit: BARON SPAFFORD

Last Friday, the Granada Theatre hosted its extraordinary Legends Gala, which honored Dan and Meg Burnham, Opera Santa Barbara, and Carol Burnett.

The evening began with an extended reception in the Founders Room and the lobby areas, followed by dinner on a dimly lit and elegantly appointed stage. The stunning Alhambra backdrop of the Spanish countryside framed the rear of the space and the tables were graced with gray linens under a silver luminescent overlay and Moroccan-style lanterns and votives.

Master of Ceremonies Andrew Firestone welcomed guests from on high in the loge and recognized the many patrons present, who make possible the performances by eight resident companies and others at the theater. Adding to the fun factor of the evening was locating Andrew each time he appeared, introducing entertainment and speakers from a different spot each time, including a catwalk 30 feet above the stage.

Firestone acknowledged past Legends recipients in attendance, which included Barry DeVorzon, Sarah and Roger Chrisman, Ann Towbes, Morrie Jurkowitz, Sara Miller McCune, Executive Director Kevin Marvin representing the Santa Barbara Symphony, and UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang and Executive Director Celesta Billeci representing UCSB Arts & Lectures. Santa Barbara luminaries permeated the venue.

Under Nir Kabaretti’s direction, the Santa Barbara Symphony’s Brass Choir performed in the loge. From an opera box, appropriately enough, Soprano Jana McIntyre did a magnificent rendition of “Queen of the Night,” while Santa Barbara Centre for Aerial Dance dancers did their wonders on the rear of the stage. State Street Ballet dancers Ahna Lipchik and Francois Llorente delighted guests with dancing Salsa Celebration between the tables.

In introducing Dan and Meg Burnham, UCSB Chancellor Yang praised them for their leadership, vision, and generosity, which have had a profound impact on our community. Dan has served as UCSB Trustee since 2005, as a member of the UCSB Arts & Lectures Council and as leader of its first endowment campaign, and on the boards of the Granada Theatre, CAMA, and the S.B. Symphony. Yang called Meg a “super-ambassador” for Arts & Lectures, who “inspires all with her warmth, enthusiasm and big heart.” He lauded the couple for hosting wonderful receptions at their residence, the Top of the G, above the theater.

In introducing Opera Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Foundation President and CEO Ron Gallo proclaimed that “they are keeping this great art form alive . . . with integrity, flair, imagination, and quality.” Accepting the award were Artistic and General Director Kostis Protopapas and Board President Joan Rutkowski. Protopapas admitted that when he learned last spring that they would receive the honor, he hoped that the company would still be in existence. Smaller organizations often have this fear, he noted, but also often produce the most vibrant productions.

In introducing Carol Burnett, renowned author Fannie Flagg commented on how Burnett is a brilliant singer, dancer, sketch artist, actress, and writer, but the one thing that makes her a legend all over the world is her likability. “Carol, everybody likes you. Carol is the person everyone in America wanted as their friend” and this is the “greatest gift God gave you.” Flagg closed by reflecting on how many people in the world Burnett has made happy.

In accepting the award, Burnett shared that one of the best decisions she and her husband Brian made was to move to Santa Barbara and be part of this community and tonight, she related, “makes me realize I was right. We have had such a wonderful time here and have such wonderful friends.” She ended on an even sweeter and a very fitting note, “I am happy that we were here and I am so glad that we had this time together.”

Conspicuously and pleasantly absent from the gala were auctions and paddle raises, yet through sponsorships, ticket sales ($500 each), and a gentle but heartfelt appeal by Ed Birch to make a donation through cards on the table, the event raised more than $350,000.

The Granada Theatre, which has about 115 events each year, is the most visible part of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts, which also includes eight resident companies — American Theatre Guild, CAMA, Music Academy of the West, Opera Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Choral Society, Santa Barbara Symphony, State Street Ballet, and UCSB Arts & Lectures — and partner venues the Lobero Theatre and the New Vic.

Major donors are critically important for the Granada, which does not receive ongoing financial support from any government sources and covers only half its budget through ticket sales and earned income.

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Meg and Dan Burnham (Legends Award recipients)
Opera Santa Barbara Artistic and General Director Kostis Protopapas and S.B. Center for the Performing Arts (which operates the Granada) Chrisman Executive Director and President Caren Rager. Opera S.B. was a Legends Award recipient.
Past S.B. Center for the Performing Arts board president Susan Miles Gulbransen and Opera S.B. Board President Joan Rutkowski (Opera S.B. was a Legends Award recipient)
Author Fanny Flagg introduces Carol Burnett.
Susan Jackson and Board Chair Palmer Jackson Jr.
S.B. Center for the Performing Arts Treasurer Roberta Griffen and Michael Annese
Guests enjoy dinner and the program.
Guests enjoy the program.
Board Chair Palmer Jackson Jr. and Carol Burnett (Legends Award recipient)


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