‘Leap’ of Faith

Lauren Yee’s play “The Great Leap” takes its name from the People’s Republic of China’s economic campaign, “The Great Leap Forward,” from the Mao Zedong era from 1949 to 1976.   

The play, which runs at the Pasadena Playhouse from Wednesday, November 6, to Sunday, December 1, is actually about a young Chinese-American man who travels to China with his team for a friendship basketball game. Soon, tension mounts when a young player’s actions become the focus of attention. 

Tony Award-winner BD Wong, of “Jurassic Park” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” has been in two productions—one on Broadway and another in San Francisco—playing the Chinese basketball coach. For the Pasadena Playhouse production, he’s taking on a new role: director.

The four-person cast won’t play a real basketball game, but that doesn’t mean the actors and Wong don’t take the sport seriously. In mid-October, when Wong and the cast had just started rehearsals, he said the production’s basketball expert was taking them through drills.

“I did play basketball,” Wong admitted. “I was vaguely familiar with basketball but that’s not my entry into the play. My entrance in the play is not from my love of basketball. It’s more from an appreciation for Lauren’s point of view and also for the world itself. The part actually doesn’t require the actor to play a lot of basketball.”

What he loves is the emotional arc and the Chinese coach’s humor. Wong did feel the need to learn about basketball when he was in his first production of the play.

“You always, always, always must feel that you want to learn about the world of the play you are in as much as possible,” he said.

He is certain that, “basketball fans will understand that she’s (Yee) researched the play very well,” but the play also “delves into the history of China during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and that’s a big part of the backdrop of the play.”

Wong’s second production was in San Francisco, where he and Yee were raised.

“In San Francisco, we had the luxury of being in the town where the play takes place and meeting the basketball coach of the school that is actually depicted in the play,” he said.

Wong recalled they “had great sessions with Coach Frank (Allocco) at USF who gave us not only insight into the game and the physicality of the basketball players and basketball moves, but insight into USF history.”

A crucial part of the production is the basketball experts’ advice and movement training, Wong said. This point, it’s important to “find out what an actor’s strengths and w eaknesses are related to the topic and maximize your potential.” From this, they’ll know who has “ball-handling skills and who needs to learn a little bit learn.”

Basketball lingo fills the script, so the actors needed to watch videos to understand the basketball moves that are described in the play. Although, Wong said, “we live in an age now when you can learn anything at all” by searching on a cellphone, but he wanted to do better than that.

“San Francisco is a great basketball town,” he said, and so while the game isn’t played on stage, basketball has to be portrayed “theatrically and with style and with a certain kind of economy.” Staging basketball is one of the play’s exciting challenges and it’s a challenge being taken up by many theater companies. Wong rated it as one of the top 10 new plays hitting the stage this year.

As director, Wong enjoys watching every moment of the play. When he was in the play, he missed certain bits because he was concentrating on his role.

This time, it comes down to his vision. Because Wong had just begun rehearsals, he was observing the chemistry between the actors and developing his own vision.

“This is the first production I’ve done that’s had an Asian American director,” he said. “My point of view of Lauren’s writing and of Lauren is informed by me being Asian American and her being Asian American.”

Other directors might not feel right away or be able to access that right away, he said. For example, he said, “if a character in the play is Asian American and someone says something vaguely racist to that person, anybody can understand what the response can be, but I know what it feels like.” While a non-Asian American director might not necessarily have that immediacy and have to reach for it.

Wong said the actors’ interaction changes the feel of the play.

“I remember when I did the play, we did this whole section of the dialogue where I said a line rather introspectively and today the actor said it more aggressively,” he said.

He said the actor in question “quite successfully landed the line.”

Minor things like that add up, but Wong wanted to clarify, “I don’t think any of the directors made any big mistakes or did anything wrong.”

“He brings more of an Asian-American perspective” and better understands “the complexity of being Asian American, specifically being Chinese American” and what that means about going to China.

In China, Wong said, “I don’t feel like I’m home when I’m there; I don’t feel like I’m greeted with open arms as an ABC—American-born Chinese.” The culture of China is different from the United States and Wong said he felt alienated.

Being at the Pasadena Playhouse, however, is a sort of homecoming for Wong. Many years ago, in about 1986, he was in a musical at the Playhouse. The same year, he was in a play produced by the oldest Asian-American theater company in the country: East-West Players.

“A Great Leap” is a co-production between East-West and the Playhouse.

“I have a real soft spot for these two theaters because of that” and at this point in his life, directing at the Playhouse is “really meaningful and nostalgic.”

Wong also has fond memories of the area for other reasons. Filming the 1991 Steve Martin movie, “Father of the Bride,” was in San Marino. By then, Wong had already won a Tony Award (1988) for “M. Butterfly,” a play that dealt with China in a sociopolitical way.

Knowing the demographics of East Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley, there’s obviously an AsianAmerican audience to be served who may be “starved for content.” Wong said he believes Yee’s play is a rare find that serves the Asian and American communities without selling out the Asian part.

“A Great Leap” is a crowd-pleaser and moving.

“Those things don’t always go together,” Wong noted. But that’s what makes this “a perfect play for the community.”

“The Great Leap”
Various times Wednesday, November 6, to Sunday, December 1
Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena
Tickets are $25 to $92
626-356-7529 or pasadenaplayhouse.org

Catching the Bug

The most precious gems the world can offer are buried in the farthest corners of the globe, deep in a cherished book, or in Old Pasadena’s very own Gold Bug gallery-where not all that glitters is gold. 

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug,” the family-owned gallery plays off the short story’s key scene when the protagonist, eager to have more money, follows scarab beetle toward a trove of treasures more valuable than what money could ever buy. In tune with the intellectually suspenseful tale’s motif of the golden bug, the store highlights how much of the world around us is not always what it seems.

Staying true to the somber and eerie undertone of Poe’s works, Gold Bug showcases pieces that are meant to turn heads and make statements about the troubles and glories of the world. Owner Theodora Coleman says each piece was chosen because, “of their ability to make people feel something, or see something in a new light they perhaps never considered before.”

Coleman says many items in the gallery serve as a vehicle to have meaningful conversations about the rich history of the world’s art practices. The gallerist added, other quirky works highlight the environment’s most notable struggles.

“The goal has always been the same and that’s to represent people who are inspired by nature, natural history and science that are doing something natural and will at some point go back to the Earth,” Coleman says.

The gallery boasts works from every corner of the world, but the collection of the items has humble beginnings based in Pasadena.

Before Coleman was born, her parents, Shelley Kimball and Stacey Coleman, owned a restaurant and employed countless actors, filmmakers and artists. In addition to flexible scheduling to accommodate their employees’ demanding dreams, the family showed their support for the arts by hanging the staff’s sculptures and paintings in the restaurant.

“When the art didn’t sell, my parents would show their support by buying some of the pieces themselves. They didn’t do a lot with it, they just kind of held onto it,” Coleman says.

Though the family closed the restaurant, the culmination of strange art pieces and sculptures sent the household down an entirely new path—one that sometimes involves the necessity of death to appreciate the fragility of life.

“There are a lot of things that are hard to look at because there is death in here, there are preserved animals here. I mean it’s a conversation we have a lot. But definitely where I’m coming from and these artists are all coming from is this place of revering nature and supporting systems to preserve it,” Coleman said.

She adds customers often ask about a handful of the gallery’s most eye-catching items. One of which is an isopod that dwells alone in a translucent box.

Isopods are part of the pill bug family and are related to the sand flea, but a prolonged glance at the creature paints an entirely different story. Its gigantic frame is a stark contrast to its roly poly genes, and its pink and tan toned hard shell gives a nod to the being’s prehistoric ancestors.

Though the creature looks like a grenade of historic lineage—able to withstand the test of time untouched—coming across the specimen in an unnatural way exposes its vulnerability to destructive fishing practices.

Deepsea trolling, the practice of clean sweeping the seafloor with a net for commercial fishing, captured the isopod from its dark and empty home at the bottom of the ocean.

“I think (trolling) is horrible and not sustainable, but as a byproduct of that they’re pulling things out of the sea by accident that they don’t have a market for, but I do,” Coleman says. “I get a thrill out of those things that come through the store, like those specimens that you wouldn’t normally see. Plus, it’s a way for us to start educating our customers about what’s happening in the fishing industry.”

Another store item that demands attention is a taxidermized unborn fawn.

With a small crown atop its head, the fawn may be petite, but serves as a mighty symbol of the diseased venison industry.

In the open plains of the Midwest, Chronic Wasting Disease has become an epidemic among farmed deer and has spread to naturally occurring deer in the surrounding area. The condition causes the degeneration of the brain and results in abnormal behavior, emaciation and, ultimately, death.

“I hear from the other side of the room a lot like, ‘oh how sad,’ and I sort of have to present myself and let customers know it’s not, ‘oh how sad,’ it’s just a thing that’s happening in our world today. It’s about making yourself aware of it,” Coleman says.

However, while the isopod and fawn definitely demand attention of curious shoppers Coleman says, “they are just two things in the shop presented in order to bring a little of nature’s pure wonder into the store, embellishing the hundreds of other art pieces that surround them.”

The handful of shocking items in the store is balanced with more delicate works like handcrafted jewelry, sculptures, paintings and prints.

The gallerist said one of the most historic artforms in the gallery may not be as shocking, but still has a deep-rooted history that presents yet another peculiar and noteworthy story of our world.

A company based out of the basement of the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence, Italy, is also home to one of the world’s oldest active apothecaries.

Officially selling products to the public since 1612, the pharmacy has a withstanding history creating perfumes, candles and soaps from natural ingredients. Though the world around the church may have changed over the centuries, the way the products are produced remains the same, and is considered a sustainable practice to Coleman.

“That’s the type of thing I steer people toward because it’s got the history and it’s well known, but still special,” Coleman said. “It may not be as weird as a crystal carved into a skull or some of the other items we carry. I mean this is art with a story behind it.”

From impressive sculptures and historic soaps to just about everything else one could think of, Gold Bug is giving guests a chance to see that not everything is what it seems. Coleman encourages shoppers to come in the gallery of wonders with an open mind, ready to ask questions about why the pieces have a spot in her store.

Gold Bug
34 Union Street, Pasadena
626-744-9963, goldbugpasadena.com.

Spiked Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is hot. The $5 billion coffee industry is one of the ways we love to cool down during the sizzling summer months. Coffee has long been a go-to beverage for the addition of alcohol; just think Irish coffee with and Mexican coffee with tequila.

But RumChata’s boozy creamer, “MiniChata’s” blend of cream, rum, cinnamon and vanilla has made this even easier. Given the coffee roasters like Jones Coffee Roaster and Jameson Brown, both based in Pasadena, and Regent in Glendale, you can get superior coffee over chain- stores spiked with a touch of creamy rum.

Leon Nie, who started Regent in 2015 then opened his café in Glendale in 2017, recommends using iced coffee from a dark roast bean as a base. “With cream liqueurs’ strong, creamy rich flavor and sweetness, a dark roast develops to be fully caramelized and lightly carbonized,” Nie says. “The coffee could be cold brew coffee prepared slowly, or freshly brewed hot coffee that is then iced. The reason behind the cold brew dark roast is its charming depth of chocolate notes and bittersweetness, without any acidity. It has a solid strength of body and lends itself to work in tandem with many cream liqueurs.”

You can purchase the 25-milliliter MiniChata’s in packs of 15, or pick up their 26-ounce plastic thermal tumbler that will hold your coffee and contains eight “MiniChatas.”


6 ounces iced coffee

1 25-ml RumChata MiniChata


Brew coffee, add MiniChata.

Happy Centennial, The Huntington

hundred years ago, Henry and Arabella Huntington signed a trust agreement that left the buildings and grounds of their San Marino estate, plus their remarkable collections, to the public.

They were both extremely wealthy when they married in 1913, and both were serious collectors. Arabella had been married to Henry’s uncle, Collis Huntington, one of the Big Four of Western railroading who founded the Central Pacific Railroad (later called the Southern Pacific), part of the first transcontinental railroad.

After Collis died in 1900, Henry spent several years courting Arabella. It may have appeared scandalous, but Henry and Arabella were actually closer in age than she to her former husband—and Henry seemed genuinely smitten with her.

He collected rare books, while she was fond of European paintings, jewelry and antiques—and soon enough he became interested in the fine arts, also. He became especially enamored of 18th century British portraiture, and today people travel from all over the world to see two romantic full-length portraits, Thomas Lawrence’s “Pinkie” and Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy,” hung in the British gallery of the mansion. A few of the exquisite Medieval and Renaissance paintings she owned, including Rogier van der Weyden’s “Virgin and Child,” are on display elsewhere in the same building.

Since Henry and Arabella’s time, the library and art collection have expanded by leaps and bounds, and in recent decades the museum has begun to collect and exhibit American art, as well. They started collecting American art only in 1979, with a gift of 50 paintings from the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation. Five years later the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art was created, with a major expansion in 2009. The library is in its own building and has exhibition galleries for the public and research facilities for scholars.

Of course, many visitors also come to see the gardens with different blooms at different times of the year. They are themed, including the Japanese garden, the rose garden, the camellia garden, the desert garden, and the newest one, still under expansion, the Chinese garden.

Celebrating 100 years, the Huntington is presenting several new exhibitions and programs—and a name change. Formerly, it was known as the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“Our art collections are more than a group of cataloged objects; they are carefully curated, interpreted and exhibited,” says Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence during a recent presentation to announce their centennial year.

“An added benefit to this change is that we become more discoverable, particularly in online searches. This is important as we work to widen our audiences and accessibility.” 

Christina Nielsen, director of the art museum, adds later in an email, “Simply put, the word ‘museum’ more accurately describes our mission in today’s vernacular. It conveys that this place, which does hold some 42,000 art objects in its collection, is not just a repository.”

The pivotal exhibition will be “Nineteen Nineteen” (September 21 to February 20) in the Boone Gallery, an exhibition looking back to the landmark year when the Huntingtons signed the document creating what is now popularly known as The Huntington.

Using 275 objects from their own collection, curators James Glisson and Jennifer Watts tells a story about what else happened that year—a lot, as it turns out. Europe was trying to recover from a World War, American soldiers returned, women fought for the right to vote, the flu pandemic struck down millions, violent attacks were inflicted upon African Americans, and high inflation fueled labor unrest. Glisson calls it “an inflection point for world history.” 

In theory, they had millions of objects to choose from—the library alone has 11 million objects. However, Glisson says, “The show’s based on a constraint, and that is, everything had to be made copyrighted, altered, exhibited, acquired, the list of verbs can go on, in the year 1919.”

It took three years to narrow down that checklist, and as they did they formed five key themes to organize the material around—“Fight,” “Return.” “Map,” “Move” and “Build.” 

The opening section “Fight,” for example, features the expected—a look at the devastation of World War I. However, some of the objects may be unexpected, such as a sketch by John Singer Sargent of soldiers suffering a mustard gas attack. The struggle for women’s suffrage is shown through a photo of National Woman’s Party members burning “President Wilson’s Meaningless Words on Democracy,” at a time when women were denied the right to vote. The exhibition uses the breadth of Huntington’s holdings, including photographs, handbill and posters, books and documents, objects and art.

“Maps” has maps, of course, but as Watts says, maps also tell a story. There will be a map of the city of Los Angeles in 1919, done by Laura L. Whitlock, L.A. County’s official cartographer. At that time, Watts says, our electric train system was the most extensive in the world, and the centerpiece of this section will be a 37-foot long, hand-drawn map to be displayed flat in a showcase. Done by the Pacific Electric, it details sections of the electric train system in 1919 and the parcels of land around it.

“It goes from Old Town Pasadena all the way to the edge of downtown, to Soto Street,” says the curator. “That map is really incredible. It not only shows transportation networks but real estate domains…additions and redactions over time.”

The story of Henry Huntington, who invested heavily in that network, is pulled in here, as in a number of other places. “It makes the interesting point that Huntington is selling off and investing in a lot of lots of adjacent to the streetcar lines,” Glisson says. “He’s kind of a quintessential Californian because he’s really making his money in real estate.”

The “Build” section focuses on the Huntington’s, and the institution they founded. For years Henry had kept his library in New York, but in 1919 he started building one on the San Marino estate. When it was finished in 1921, he shipped his books here. The Chicago Tribune heralded the event with the lines, “One of the largest and most extensive private libraries in the world is being built at San Marino…and when this is completed it also will be conveyed to the public.”

For the centennial, the library offers an exhibition in two parts, “What Now:  Collection for the Library in the 21st Century” (Part I: October 19, 2019, to February 17, 2020; Part II: May 1 to August 24, 2020). It will show more than 100 acquisitions representing areas in which the library has grown.

With 750,000 visitors a year, the Huntington is one of the most popular destinations in Southern California.

“Today we take a moment…to think about our future,” says Lawrence during a centennial presentation, “and the future and the ideas that will propel us all for the next 100 years. For an institution turning 100, a centennial is a moment to be like Janus, looking back and forward at the same time. Today we’re celebrating how far we’ve come, and reflect on where we want to go.”  

Remembering Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen fans would make their way to the sites associated with their beloved author to ingest the world that shaped her novels. 

One good spot to start this reverence, as I did, is the Jane Austen’s House Museum located in South of England in the tiny village of Chawton, near the town of Alton in Hampshire. The village also boasts Chawton Estate, an Elizabethan manor associated with the famous author’s family.

The museum recently celebrated its 70th anniversary 202 years after Austen’s death.

The daughter of a clergyman with modest means, Austen lived here during the last eight years of her life. The house inspired and nurtured her literarily. That’s where she revised and published three novels, including the classic “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, and wrote three more.

The dwelling was part of the Chawton Estate that belonged to Austen’s brother, Edward, who had the good fortune to inherit it from the childless Knight family for little more than a change of surname and an endearing personality. Edward allowed his mother, Cassandra, sisters Jane and Cassandra, and their friend Martha Lloyd to live in the home rent–free for life.

Those days, chickens clucking about the outhouse, grunting pigs and a donkey carriage would have been commonplace sights and sounds.

Nowadays, what’s usual are tourists — more than 40,000 flock to the museum annually. About 30% come from overseas and many of the most loyal and enthusiastic fans travel from the United States.

Getting to the picturesque English village of Chawton is half the fun. Once off the A31 Motorway that leads south from London, the drive to the heart of Jane Austen country features wooded areas lined roadside by wildflowers.

Helpful museum signposts begin about 15 minutes before the destination, but my companion and I still managed to lose our way. However, it added to the experience: meandering through the lanes, we were rewarded with sights of thatched-roof cottages, a quintessential feature of the English countryside.

The verdant Chawton countryside remains as unchanged today as it did in the 19th century when the Austen family resided.

“Many of the buildings would have been known to Jane Austen, and we know that she used to walk to visit friends and family locally,” says Jen Harris, the museum’s marketing manager. “During her time here, the road directly outside the house would have been busier than it is now, as it was the main coaching route from Winchester to London.”

The traffic, however, would have been of horses and carriages.

The first glimpse of the 17th century red-brick house with white-framed windows is poignant. This is the only dwelling where Austen lived and wrote that is open to the public. The museum describes it as the most important Austen site in the world also because this is where her genius flourished.

To think of the technology and facilities at the disposal of modern writers brings focus to what little was available to Austen, and marvel even more at her talent.

These thoughts are reinforced in the Dining Parlor.

Placed in a corner is the three-legged table at which Austen devised plots, engaged her sparkling wit and weaved social commentary into endearing prose. (The table base is dated later, but the top is original.)

At this round walnut tabletop, a little bigger than an extra-large pizza, she described the privileged landed gentry of the 19th century and women’s dependence on marriage for existence; hence the stuffy social gatherings where matchmaking was ceaseless, the gowns, the balls with their rigorous etiquette, the conquests and the animated sibling conversations that followed.

Here she created the matchmaking Emma Woodhouse, starched the pompous Mr. Collins, and outlined sense and sensibility in the form of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne.

This fictional world was created with a quill pen dabbed in ink. (The nib pen was not in use until a few decades later.)

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

As the story goes, after breakfast each day, Austen would settle at this table for a morning of writing. Remarkably neat, she pinned together about 20 smallish sheets and wrote on them in her sloped handwriting. She hid the manuscript from prying eyes by giving ear to a creaky swing door that was prevented from getting attention.

Now there’s no Austen writing by the window, so there’s no need to safeguard manuscripts. Hence, the door doesn’t creak and is used as a fire door.

Research indicates that Austen was developing cataracts in her eyes, which drove her to move the table through the house in tandem with the light; hence her preference to using a small work surface.

Another item that gives visitors pause is the lock of straw-colored hair kept upstairs in a glass case. The lock was snipped off by sister Cassandra upon Austen’s death at age 41 in 1817. It was presented to the museum by its American owner at the museum’s opening in 1949.

And then there’s the mystery ring. Was it purchased by her or was it a gift? Is the stone turquoise or the cheaper odontolite? It’s hard to verify.

On the subject of rings, in 1802, Austen entertained a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, but changed her mind overnight. Did the insight and emotions she imparted on romantic matters in her novels not translate to real life? Or, did Cassandra, with whom she shared a bed and room since childhood, nudge her to remain single, as she herself stayed?

The museum preserves the first editions of Austen’s books, newspaper clippings from The Courier and The Morning Chronicle announcing the publishing of her books, dozens of hand-written letters and other documents, a coverlet, the Rev. Austen’s bookcase and the family carriage. In Austen’s bedroom hangs her likeness sketched by sister Cassandra, considered the only accurate portrait of her because Cassandra was a talented artist.

It’s best to visit early in the day because the true Janeite will need a good length of time to browse the objects and peruse the documents.

Visiting early would also allow time to walk the few minutes to Chawton House, past the sloping meadows. Austen would often make her way there, to get away from the smaller confines of the cottage where privacy was elusive. While the House Museum is the obvious draw, the “Great House,” as Austen called it, is no less interesting to “dawdle away” the time.

Chawton House, in the Knight family since 1582, doesn’t quite boast the grandeur of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Pemberley. Researchers believe that Mr. Knightley’s Donwell Abbey in Emma was modeled on this estate.

Janeites would do well to bump into volunteer guide Jeremy Knight, who happens to be the fourth-great nephew of Jane Austen and grew up in the Great House. It is now leased in trust for 125 years.

The Chawton House Library conserves a rare collection of early women’s writing, from 1600 to 1830, which was neglected during the 20th century. While Jane Austen is the most famous woman novelist of her time, others such as Aphra Behn, Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, also paved the way to the modern novel.

Fans eager to connect the Great House to Austen would note that the library contains the first editions of her novels. She also would have read the books that are in the shelves.

“Some of the books from the Knight collection that the librarian had worked out that we know Jane would have read,” Knight said. “She would have come up here and got permission and read them. So there are books that she would have touched and read herself. We know she came up here to the library quite regularly.”

The Dining Room bears the same long mahogany table at which she dined with her brother’s family when she visited. She would have eaten out of her brother’s Wedgewood dinner service; some of its pieces are in the house museum. Knight inherited the crockery set as a wedding gift from his family.

The Reading Alcove in the Oak Room was one of Austen’s favorite spots from where she would look down the drive.

Among the many portraits is one of her favorite niece, Fanny Knight, while another, a 1783 silhouette, depicts a young Edward Austen being introduced to the Knight family.

During the final part of her life, an ailing Austen moved to Winchester to be closer to her doctor. She died in 1817 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

After the author’s passing, her mother and sister continued to live at the house for the rest of their lives. They are buried in the church in the Chawton Estate.

In 1845, the house was split into three dwellings to provide homes for staff on the Chawton estate and the building remained in this state until it went on sale in 1947.

Following an appeal by the Jane Austen Society, the house was bought by a lawyer from London, T. Edward Carpenter, who opened it as a museum in 1949. A registered charity, it’s independent and receives no regular public funding. Jane’s Fund, launched in 2017, raises funds to help protect and restore the home, an ongoing process.

The museum continues to collect her memorabilia and build its collections. A campaign in July raised 35,000 British pounds to retrieve a letter that she wrote. The Bank of England placed her portrait in its new 10-pound note, and the museum asks fans to donate their notes to Jane’s Fund, set up to protect the home. 

On this 70th anniversary year, a special exhibition titled Making the Museum relates the story of the characters, hard work, luck and determination that has gone in to preserve this place of pilgrimage for Austen devotees.

Sadly, she didn’t strike riches when she could have used them; her lifetime’s work earned her as much as her father earned annually. Like many authors that contributed to English literature, she, too, was ushered into greatness posthumously.

Especially after the BBC’s dramatization of Austen’s novels, new legions of fans have discovered her writing and often make their way to the museum. Some are inspired to don a bonnet and gown, which are available to those who want to try yesteryear’s fashion, or dip a quill pen in the inkpot and scratch their names.

Some Janeites have even received offers of marriage in the gardens.

“I know of at least two proposals,” Harris says. “The last we heard about was in 2018 and involved a couple from the States.

“The young girl was a huge Jane Austen fan. Her boyfriend booked her the holiday of a lifetime, brought her to Jane Austen’s House, and then surprised her with his proposal in the garden. He’d even booked a local photographer to capture the moment.”

Austen would have approved.

Details: jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk.

Gotta Have Art!

As the weather gets cooler, the theater scene is heating up.

This fall, stages across Pasadena and Glendale are showcasing first-class shows with stories that will make audiences laugh, cry and reflect on their own lives through media like dance, performance theater, music and inspirational lectures.

So, grab a warm drink, wrap up in your coziest sweaters and scarves, and prepare yourself for the best entertainment the area has to offer this fall.

Pasadena Playhouse

Pasadena Playhouse has been a hub for creativity in the performing arts world for more than 100 years, and has no plans to slow down. The next century for the theater will bring about many changes. Perhaps the most notable is Pasadena Playhouse’s vision of its purpose, as it transitions from a place of entertainment to a destination of enlightenment through theater. Shows are held at the theater, 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena.

Info: 626-356-7529 or pasadenaplayhouse.org

The fall series includes: “Little Shop of Horrors,” now to October 20; “A Kid Like Jake,” now through to November 3; and “The Great Leap” from November 6 to December 1.

A Noise Within

A Noise Within’s 2019-20 season features three classic plays that fall under the theme, “They Played with Fire.” They demonstrate the trials, tribulations and, ultimately, the power of change through characters who are willing to give their lives to make a difference in the world around them.

Guests will enjoy each robust show in a massive theater erected in 2011 that boasts 324 seats.

A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena.

Info: 626-356-3100 or anoisewithin.org

The fall lineup for 2019-20 includes: “Gem of the Ocean” through November 16; ‘Buried Child’ from October 13 to November 23; and “A Christmas Carol” from December 4 to December 23.

Boston Court Pasadena

Boston Court Pasadena impeccably blends the drama of theater, movement of music, and an exhibition’s ability to spark one’s curiosity in a single location. Over the next few months, there are seemingly endless opportunities to partake in varied experiences.

Fall will bring about the show “How the Light Gets In,” which highlights the lives of four strangers from drastically different backgrounds, who connect through their loneliness and change each other’s lives entirely when one of them falls apart.

In the auditorium’s lobby, the show will be paired with an art exhibition that plays on the performance’s showcase of vegetation typically seen in Japanese gardens. Both shows are running through October 27. 

The theater also offers music performances of varying types including the conductor-less Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra that was scheduled to perform September 21 and the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Percussion Quartet set to hit the stage October 17.

Info: 626-683-6891 or bostoncourtpasadena.org

Remaining performances this season include:

• Piano Spheres: Mark Robson, October 4

• Brightwork NewMusic, October 5

• The Viano String Quartet, October 6

• Synchromy, October 12

• Rod Gilfry in Concert, October 18

• Bridge to Everywhere, October 19

• Alexander Miller: To… Oblivion, October 25

• Josh Nelson: Après Un Rêve, October 26

Parson’s Nose Theater

Parson’s Nose Theater believes the classics have withstood the test of time because of the truth they speak to each generation, but also thinks the truth can sometimes be funny.

This season, the theater is featuring “full-out” comedy shows while prematurely celebrating the upcoming centennial year of women’s suffrage. Unlike a large portion of classic plays, in each of the theater’s productions it’s the woman who saves the day.

“Our American Cousin,” the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated, will be showcased from October 18 to November 11. The show highlights the story of an awkward and honest American, and her adventures to English relatives as she tries to save her fortune. As per the theater’s culture, the show will include a song and dance or two.

From December 14 to December 22, the Parson’s Nose will also feature a rendition of “A Christmas Carol.” The production is what Parson’s calls “theater unplugged.” During the show, the actors sit along the back of the stage, and present themselves only when needed. In this casual setting they hold their scripts, yet are typically familiar enough with content they’re barely looked over. The actors sing their own carols and create the show’s sound effects by hand and with the help of the audience.

All shows are hosted at Parson’s Nose Theater located at 95 N. Marengo Avenue, Suite 110.

Info: 626-403-7667 or parsonsnose.org

The Rose

The Rose is an intimate live music venue that serves dinner and also manages to have room for a massive dancefloor. Though the inside is a large space that accommodates all types of music shows each month, the location is comfortably tucked away at 245 E. Green Street, Pasadena. It serves as a focal point for music lovers of all types in the area, and a great place to test out dance moves judgment free.

Remaining shows this season include:

• L.A. Guns, opening sets by Wikkid Starr and Six Gun Sal, October 4

• Jim Messina, October 6

• Brian Howe, opening set by Ampage, October 10

• Jon B, opening set by H’atina, October 12

• A Night with Janis Joplin, October 17

• Todrick: Haus Party Tour, October 19

• Sir Mix-A-Lot, October 26

• Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, November 2

• Judy Collins, November 10

• Los Lonely Boys, November 16

• Queen Nation, opening by Slow Burning Car, November 22

• The Association, opening set by Nick Marechal, November 23

• Jonny Lang, December 7

• DSB Journey Tribute, December 27

• Led Zeppelin Tribute by Led Zepagain, December 28

Info: 888-625-5006 or wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com

Fremont Centre Theatre

Since Fremont Centre Theatre’s start in 1997, Co-Artistic Directors James and Lissa Reynolds have worked to produce shows that promote diversity in society, as well as attract diverse audiences from far and wide.

The theater, located at 1000 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena, will be showcasing the musical “Annie Jr.” from October 4 to October 27.

The show will bring generations together as the story of orphan Annie walks the audience through her struggle after being abandoned on the doorsteps of a rundown orphanage where she is mistreated. Annie will set out to find her birth parents, but along the way she will adopt an entirely new family—one better than in her dreams. 

Info: 626-269-3609 or fremontcentretheatre.com

Alex Theatre

The performing arts and entertainment center, Alex Theatre, has been hosting robust events for more than 80 years and has only increased the quality and quantity of events since its doors opened.

Now serving more than 130,000 people per year, the theater located at 216 N Brand Boulevard, Glendale, hosts events including classical, contemporary and world music concerts, film screenings, live theater, stand-up comedy, dance recitals and musicals.

Remaining shows include:

• Live Talks Los Angeles in association with

Glendale Arts presents: An Evening with Bob Iger, October 1

• AEG presents: Yanni, October 3

• Symphonic Concert Management Ltd presents:

Havasi Pure Piano Concert, October 5

• Boundaryless Productions presents:

Where Is Your Groom II?, October 6

• Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange presents: Patti Smith, October 9

• Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre presents:

Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre Goes Broadway, October 13

• Center for Inquiry presents: An Evening with

Richard Dawkins and Ann Druyan, October 20

• Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra presents:

McGegan and Denk, October 26

• Right Angle Entertainment presents: Raffi, October 27

• Alex Film Society presents:

Halloween Classics! “The Old Dark House” (1932) and “The Raven”

(1935) October 27

• Musical Theatre Guild presents: “The Goodbye Girl,” November 10

• Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra presents:

Pulcinella and Prokofiev, November 16

• Los Angeles Ballet presents:

The Nutcracker, December 7 and December 8

Info: 818-243-2539 or alextheatre.org

Antaeus Theatre Company

The Antaeus Theatre Company has recently announced its two fall shows, which both share the underlying theme of defying the odds as the past comes back to haunt the present.

The story “Eight Nights,” which the theater will be showing from October 31 to December 16, features the journey of a resilient German Jewish refugee and her family set in a single apartment. From October 3 to November 25, the stage will be absorbed by the cast of “The Abuelas,” a story of an Argentinian concert cellist living in Chicago who will have to face the harsh truths of Argentina’s “Dirty War.”

The theater is located at 110 E Broadway, Glendale.

Info: 818-506-5436 or antaeus.org  

Making Self Expression Relatable

For 34 years, the Contemporary Crafts Market has provided creators and art lovers a place to explore where art, history and science come together. Years past have proven to be successful in connecting people to art they love, however, the retirement of the market’s CEO will bring about the end of an era.

“We are retiring, but art is timeless,” says CEO Roy Helms.

“When I launched this show 34 years ago, my goal was to showcase fine craft and wonderful products you cannot find anywhere else. There’s nothing like hand-crafted artistry to enhance home and everyday life.”

The market serves as not only a place to showcase talent and dedication, but as a medium to exchange stories. From November 1 to November 3, the Pasadena Convention Hall will house more than 150 booths filled to the brim with art that has a strong history and a plethora of stories behind it.

One such booth is that of enamelist Marianne Hunter.

Fifty-two years ago, Hunter started enameling atop pennies that she sold to friends and family. She prides herself in only using each design once, even over the last half century, and being inspired by something new for each piece.

Though her originality has persisted throughout the years, Hunter’s ability to keep simple titles for each piece has not.

“When I’m working on a piece, I have to immerse myself into that feeling,” Hunter says. “I have thought about it and what I’m trying to communicate as my vision comes together. Soon enough my one-word titles for each piece grew longer and longer, so I gave into it and started engraving short poems on the back that tell the piece’s story.”

From the colors used to the shape of the jewelry itself, everything about the piece shares a role in relaying Hunter’s narrative.

While the pieces can be worn, her techniques allow the art to look just as wonderful in a translucent case in which all sides can be seen.

“The biggest thing for me is that I do everything free-hand, every emotion comes through the work naturally. It’s raw, it’s authentic, it’s my vision of the story straight from my soul to my hands to the work itself,” Hunter says.

It can take Hunter anywhere from two weeks to a month to perfect a fired glass piece, which can take more than 120 individual firings somewhere between 1,500 and 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit before completion.

Hunter says, however, she doesn’t mind the process, as delicate and tedious as it may be.

Starting her own small enameling business in the summer of 1967, Hunter says she, “hasn’t had the need for a straight job since. I’ve been self-employed my whole life. I haven’t been to Europe or the other things I might’ve done if I got two-week vacations, but doing this everyday challenges me. It drives me, and there’s no other place I’d rather be than doing this.”

Due to the time, concentration and use of materials, Hunter’s pieces start at $5,000. She has started utilizing a layaway program to make her art accessible to anyone who can relate to the stories she tells through her work.

“I want people who relate to my art and these pieces to be able to have it. That’s what it’s for, that’s the reason I do this. If it speaks to you, you need to have it,” Hunter says.

Through an entirely different medium, watercolorist Liz Covington has also used her art to tell a story entirely her own. Though her art she has expressed the balancing act of being a practicing physician and crafter.

Ten years ago, the painter got her start in the art world through calligraphy, where she specialized in italics. Though she took it on for fun, Covington says it was more demanding than she could have ever imagined.

“I wanted to do something fun and easy to kind of take my mind away from my practice and I enjoyed the technique and discipline, but it’s a lot more involved than most people think,” Covington says.

As she began mastering calligraphy she sought out embellishments like watercolor flowers to pair with her writing. And without a moment’s notice she had discovered her true passion- painting.

“I started in watercolor because it was cheap, but I stuck with it because I think, personally, it’s one of the most challenging ways to deliver a scene. It requires so much practice and patience. I loved it immediately,” Covington says.

Today, Covington is able to produce nature scenes, flowers, portraits and abstract works. She says a particular fan favorite is her mixed abstract-portraits pieces.

As Covington takes on the complexities of nature, politics, and urban unrest, through her art she says painting the world as she views it through watercolor helps her see overwhelming aspects of life in their simplicity.

“I’m eclectic so I usually paint what’s on my mind. Sometimes is soft, and gentle, other times it’s a harsh truth that needs to be acknowledged. Either way, I feel it’s important to put it on paper. Once I’ve painted it, I feel like I’ve expressed it and it’s okay to let it go,” Covington says.

Covington has also explored the fashion market, and has recently gone under contract with a clothing company that put’s her art on shirts, dresses, scarves and bags, which she says brings her art to life.

Though her clothing can only be found online at the moment, Covington will be featuring greeting cards, prints, posters, and originals that range from $10 to more than $250 at the craft fair.

“Really, I just hope my paintings have a unique perspective and composition that provokes you. I want my art to draw you in, and make you think on an emotional level,” Covington says.  

Contemporary Crafts Market

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, November 1, and Saturday, November 2, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 3
Pasadena Convention Center Exhibit Hall, 300 E. Green Street, Pasadena
Limited passes are available at craftsource.net

Making Noise

On a sunny Pasadena day, the interior of the historic Stuart Pharmaceutical building was refreshingly cool even as the sun filtered in from the building’s distinctive milky white Persian inspired lace-like facade.

Backlit by this glow, Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx enthusiastically explained A Noise Within’s diversity directive: Noise Now. In-person, Muñoz-Proulx is warm and welcoming with a quick smile and a disarming eagerness to listen and share possibilities.

Since he was hired last fall to be the director of cultural programming for Noise Now, the Southern California native has been reaching out to local community organizations. ANW’s managing director, Michael Bateman, said Muñoz-Proulx has been in touch with more than 300 organizations. The program launched in February and has brought in over 800 audience members. Some of these programs have been as intimate as 15 people while others have attracted 250.

ANW has been recognized for its high-quality classical theater productions since the 1990s. Under two of its three original founders, the husband-and-wife team of Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott, ANW moved from the Masonic Temple in Glendale to a state-of-the-art, 324-seat performing space in Pasadena in 2011. Now well-established in the Pasadena community, ANW continues to expand.

“We see Noise Now as our commitment to being of service to all audiences,” Rodriguez-Elliott explained. “It also presents a wonderful opportunity to animate our campus by presenting art in nontraditional spaces throughout A Noise Within.”

According to Bateman, Noise Now came about when the house of the mouse squeaked some advice. Bateman said it was discussions with Disney Imagineers that set these plans into motion. ANW was challenged to consider that for the community, “theater didn’t have to be their primary access point” and that ANW could become “a hub where art happens.”

So enter center stage the Muñoz-Proulx. Graduating from USC, School of Dramatic Arts, he also served as an adjunct faculty to the USC MFA in acting program. Muñoz-Proulx previously served as an associate producer at the Skylight Theatre and as an artistic assistant at East West Players. He has also worked for Center Theatre Group and Pasadena’s Boston Court Theatre and is on the Latinx Theatre Commons National Advisory Committee. Like many transplants to Los Angeles County, Muñoz-Proulx wanted to be an actor, but realized he was more interested in “choosing the stories I was telling.”

Being of Mexican and French heritage, in college, he had another realization.

“I began to understand my role and responsibility to illuminate underrepresented communities,” he said.

Yet at times, he’s found himself “tokenized” as a “cultural ambassador” when he was contracted to direct the one Latino-themed play within a season. “I accepted that because it got me in the door.”

With Noise Now, he’s opening the door to the Pasadena community by offering dance, music, art exhibits and bits of nontraditional theater. Structured in “semesters” because many organizations aren’t ready or equipped to commit to a year-long initiative, in its first semester, Noise Now took on the topics of mental illness, black identity, transgender identity and water in Latin America.

Muñoz-Proulx explained that instead of offering what one thinks the community needs and be trapped in a “savoir complex,” Noise Now works on the concept of “consensus organizing.”

While Bateman spoke of “cross-pollination” between ANW and its Noise Now partners, Pasadena’s theater community has already been inspiring each other. Muñoz-Proulx credited Seema Sueko, who came to the 647-seat Pasadena Playhouse in 2013, for bringing the concept of consensus organizing to his attention. Consensus building is “asking the community what type of plays” and other presentations they want to see and “accepting accountability as an institution” for asking and producing results. In his outreach to local organizations, he asks, “Where’s the overlap in our missions?”

For the fall, the answer lies in Ibarionex Perello’s “The Three-Fifths Project” photo exhibition (now through November 16), Josh Gershick’s staged reading of “Dear One: Love & Longing in Mid-Century Queer America” (October 13), the Diwali Festival of Lights block party with the Bollystars Dance Company (October 26), a staged reading of a feminist adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” (November 17), a staged reading of a play based on the myth of Daedalus and Icarus (December 7), a Latina Christmas Special presented with the Latino Theater Company. (December 9), staged readings from Wicked Lit’s repertoire (December 15) and a staged reading generational trauma—“Ballad of Haint Blue” presented with the Pasadena Mental Health Advisory Committee & Project Sister Family Services.

All events are pay what you choose. For more information, call 626-356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org/noisenow.

Telling the Story of ‘Arroyo’

Though Pasadena claims to value honesty, integrity, and accountability, one author challenges the seemingly utopic history of the city through his debut fiction novel “Arroyo.”

Pasadena-born Chip Jacobs has spent the last three years studying the idiosyncrasies of the Colorado Street Bridge. While history books portray the bridge as a beacon of Pasadena’s withstanding financial and industrial success, Jacobs has uncovered gruesome truths about the structure locally dubbed, “Suicide Bridge.”

“Pasadena is a beautiful place, but it’s not perfect. No place is perfect that’s made by man,” Jacobs says, adding, “there’s a lot of coffee table books about Pasadena and about our history, and they’re great, but they don’t seem to capture human suffering, drama, and confusion—all things that build a city.”

Having worked in journalism for seven years, Jacobs found the industry was tailor- made for him because of his “curious” and “annoying” personality that made getting to the bottom of stories exhilarating.

There was one story, however, that changed Jacobs’ trajectory in the field of writing.

Jacobs published an article in Pasadena Weekly about a very obscure accident that befell the Colorado Street Bridge in the midst of construction. The catastrophe killed several construction workers, but the brilliance of the bridge shadowed over the lives sacrificed to erect it.

“It really bothered me that these men who died in this dramatic collapse had been forgotten, kind of brushed aside by history; swept over by the glory of this bridge and what it meant for the history of the city,” Jacobs says.

Not long after the story was published, Jacobs began receiving very passionate responses from the community. Some of the letters and emails believed the piece to be distasteful, but others highlighted their appreciation for the truth of what happened to the men killed while building the bridge.

“When you live in Pasadena you’re always connected with that bridge because you drive over it, you know somebody that has gone for a walk or a jog on it and has seen a dead body at the bottom. You’re inundated with lithograph paintings of the bridge in art galleries and in organizational literature. You’re absolutely dazzled by the aesthetics of it,” Jacobs says, adding, “you’re either someone who views it as a symbol of how far the city has come, or how far we have to go.”

Jacobs’ resume includes two nonfiction novels published. “Strange as It Seems: The Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler,” a story about a maternal uncle whom he couldn’t stand, but turned out the be the most astonishing man he’d ever met; and “Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles,” which offers a social—not technical—history of the smog crisis.

Jacobs says he had “all the ingredients to write a fiction novel”—a book-publishing history, a natural curiosity for the world, the ability to dig for the truth and a passion for writing.

“I had so many people tell me ‘with your smart-ass personality and imagination, you really should be going into fiction.’ So I did,” Jacobs says.

“Being a journalist, you’re capturing history on the fly, but I wanted to capture the drama on a deeper spectrum and of course do it with my own sort of flare,” Jacobs says.

And so, “Arroyo,” the novel, was born.

The hilariously grim story embarks readers on a journey through the lens of a young inventor and his dog, inspired by his beloved dog Auggie, in both 1913 and 1993 Pasadena.

Though the inventor was once the “biggest homer, all-American Pasadena boy possible,” in his second life he will discover his purpose as a whistleblower reincarnated to bring truth to the dark past of the bridge as it celebrates its 80 years.

As the inventor discovers the purpose of his second life with the help of his dog, the story walks the audience through the contrasting ideologies of history and myth, progress and vanity, even the contrasting approaches to various obstacles by dog and man.

“Teddy Roosevelt once famously said, not all movement is necessarily progress,’ and I think that does apply to this bridge at this point in our city’s history,” Jacobs says.

Although there are elements to the story that rings true of fiction, like the dialogue, Jacobs says it was extremely important to him that he reflects the information on the bridge accurately when writing the book.

He also insisted on keeping true to the area’s personalities, including hints of a local business owner’s voice, and a pharmacist who recorded the bridge’s history from his perspective as it was under construction. He says both accurately portray the shared feelings of hesitation and excitement for the area’s future.

The book seamlessly alludes to both an epoch of doll-style dresses and ice cream parlor and another era filled with technology and “Seinfeld;” however, while writing the book, Jacobs says switching between two worlds wasn’t effortless.

“Going from a journalist to being a nonfiction author to a novelist wasn’t always easy. I ripped up and threw away thousands of pages. I burned through printer ink like crazy. I got a hand injury from backspacing so much. I was so paranoid about digging in and touching down on that blank page—problems I never had when I was writing nonfiction. I mean it was grabbing me around the throat,” Jacobs says.

Jacobs’ father also died while writing the book, which sent him “sideways.” Beyond the shock of losing a loved one, the conflicted author was writing about a 1913 falsely utopic Pasadena world while in modern-day Pasadena as his world went dark and his family mourned.

“I was split down the middle of these worlds, but that helped me relate to this character even more than I already had because he’s doing the same thing. He’s trying to figure out who he is in this world of confusion and chaos,” Jacobs says.

Jacobs hopes “Arroyo” brings as much clarity and reflection on life and history while looking toward the future to readers as writing the novel did to him.

Jacobs says he believes past decisions affect Pasadena today and hopes readers can learn lessons that carry into their choices.

“Be careful about your secrets and machinations because they might just ricochet back at you in unintended ways,” Jacobs says.

Pasadena philanthropists Carol and Warner Henry are guardian angels for L.A. Opera and LACO.


arol and Warner Henry are two of the biggest supporters of classical music in Los Angeles: She’s chairman of the executive committee of L.A. Opera’s board; he’s one of five board vice chairmen. When they met, he was already a huge fan of classical music, inspiring her to love it too — love it so much that she joined an early support group for opera, the Opera League, and then helped to found L. A. Opera in 1986.

Carol was born in Baltimore; her family moved to Chicago before heading to Sacramento when she was nine. “My main memories of growing up are of Sacramento,” she says during a recent afternoon in their dining room in Pasadena. The view out the window is of the lush green Arroyo, with the San Gabriel Mountains beyond. Warner, in contrast, is a native Angeleno, born at Good Samaritan Hospital downtown and raised in Hancock Park. 

As a young man he had been a serious jazz fan. While a Stanford student, he often went to San Francisco to enjoy the lively music scene. “I’d listen to Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey, they were Dixieland jazz people,” he recalls with a smile. “And there were a couple of new guys getting started — one named Dave Brubeck, another one named George Shearing. I started hitting the bars they were playing in. A professor said, ‘If you’re interested in them, you should take Music 1.’” So he did. “When I heard Bach, it was all over — he was the original boogie-er,” Warner continues. For him, listening to classical music is “a spiritual experience. It reaches a part of you that isn’t reached in any other way.”

After college, he served two years in the Navy before returning to Palo Alto for Stanford’s business school. Carol attended Stanford at the same time, but their paths didn’t cross until after both moved to Southern California. Warner returned in 1963 to join the family business, a glue and roofing products manufacturing company started by his father in 1933, and Carol settled in Manhattan Beach, teaching elementary school — “We taught every subject, including P. E.” The two were introduced by Warner’s cousin.

“When Carol and I started dating I was going to about 50 concerts a year, about one a week,” Warner says. “She just got on the train and came along with me.” He laughs, as Carol looks on with an approving smile.   

“Growing up in Sacramento, the music that I knew was musical theater,” Carol recalls. “We had very good musical theater, and we would also go to San Francisco for musical theater. And I loved it. Then I met Warner, who had studied classical music at Stanford, and I discovered this art form that was both wonderful musical theater and also beautiful music.” That art form was opera, and in the 1980s Carol became an early member of the Opera League, along with fellow Pasadenan Alice Coulombe and Lorraine Saunders of San Marino.  In the early days, they were a presenting organization, hosting touring opera companies, such as the New York City Opera. But they believed L.A. deserved its own opera company, and in 1986 L.A. Opera was born.

The Henrys’ longtime support of the acclaimed company is well known in the classical music community. “Carol and Warner are pioneering and visionary founders of L.A. Opera; they helped create a world-class opera company where none had existed before,” says L.A. Opera President/CEO Christopher Koelsch. “They’ve been an essential part of the company ever since those formational early seasons, and they’ve been incredibly generous with their time, wisdom, inspiration and philanthropy throughout it all. The company would be simply unimaginable without them.”

These days the opera presents a full season, with the prominent tenor Placido Domingo as general manager. The Henrys are quick to point out they don’t do the programming — “It’s totally up to the professionals,” Carol says — but they have created the Carol and Henry Warner Production Fund for Mozart Operas. “We both feel that Mozart’s music is the most beautiful of all,” she says.

L. A. Opera’s upcoming season includes two Mozart operas underwritten by the Henrys — The Magic Flute (Nov. 16 through Dec. 15 ) and The Marriage of Figaro (June 6 through 28, 2020), but the uninitiated should expect some surprises. This highly popular production of The Magic Flute, which originated at Berlin’s Komische Opera and returns for its third run here, uses original animation to provide the backdrop and the fantastical creatures. The singers are made up and dressed in costumes mimicking silent-era black-and-white film.

Also of particular note this season is a world premiere of Eurydice (February 2020) with music by Matthew Aucoin and libretto by Sarah Ruhl, which will retell the Orpheus myth from the heroine’s point of view. And of course there will be opera greats treading the boards. Renowned lyric soprano Renée Fleming stars in Adam Guettel’s Tony-winning musical, Light in the Piazza (October), about an American woman who takes her grown daughter on tour of romantic Florence in the 1950s. And in February and March 2020, Domingo sings the prominent role of the Duke of Nottingham in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux

For those put off by opera’s stuffy reputation, Carol points out that there’s no formal dress code anymore, and there are special programs with relatively affordable pricing. The Aria Package for people under 40 also offers special events for socializing and the Newcomer Package includes backstage tours, preshow discussions and even easy payment plans.

While L. A. Opera declines to reveal how much the Henrys have donated, and the couple themselves are not boastful people, it’s fair to assume their contributions are generous. The Henrys helped set up the Founding Angels program for donors who give at least $1 million over a four-year period. They were also early supporters of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO), and in 2017 they donated $1.5 million to the group to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was the largest gift in LACO’s history.

It’s certainly money well spent, given the wealth of musical talent available in this area, including those versed in the more “serious” arts. “We discovered that more than 50 years ago when Neville Mariner was auditioning musicians for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,” says Warner. “He said, ‘I’m overcome by the quality of musicians in this city! Not in London, not in Berlin, not in Vienna, not even in New York are there musicians of such uniformly high quality.’ And it’s [because of] the studios that they were playing for, as well as the USC [Thornton] School of Music, and now, the Colburn. We are awash in great orchestral musicians.”