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The Granada Theatre’s Legends Gala Gives Star Treatment to 2016 Honorees

Evening's spotlight shines on philanthropists Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, UCSB Arts & Lectures, actor Christopher Lloyd

Legends honorees Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz with grandson Graham at the second annual Legends Gala at The Granada Theatre. Click to view larger
Legends honorees Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz with grandson Graham at the second annual Legends Gala at The Granada Theatre. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The Granada Theatre continued a two-year tradition of honoring supporters of the multimillion-dollar restoration of the theater, which reopened in 2008 as a state-of-the-art building and is now owned and operated by the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts.

The SBCPA honors one or more Legends — individuals or organizations — who have had a substantive positive influence on the local, national and international performing arts and culture community.

“This is the second year that we’ve done this, and the idea was to acknowledge it takes three pieces of the puzzle to make a performance come together,” said Craig Springer, SBCPA’s president and CEO who also serves at The Granada’s Chrisman executive director.

“You need the performers themselves, you need an organization that can bring the performers and the audience together, and you need somebody who’s willing to make that happen in terms of supporting it financially.”

Originally opened in 1924, The Granada, at 1214 State St., celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2014.

The historic theater’s mission is to serve as a vibrant venue that promotes the arts and enhances quality of life in the community.

Elegantly dressed guests in black ties and spectacular gowns gathered to honor philanthropists Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, UCSB Arts & Lectures and actor Christopher Lloyd at a spectacular event co-chaired once again by Anne Towbes and Gretchen Lieff.

Emcee Andrew Firestone invited guests to gather for a special dinner on the theater stage, which was elevated on a tiered platform extending over the orchestra floor seats.

Duo Catering & Events served a delectable three-course meal of lamb loin, pan-roasted Dover sole or a vegetarian option that was accompanied by the sounds of the Santa Barbara Choral Society.

Passionate supporters, donors, founding and current board members along with community leaders were eager to soak in the majesty of years of effort to honor the theater and the talented lineup of stars who have performed onstage.

Welcome messages from board chairman Peter MacDougall led to the evening’s awards, with his presentation to the Jurkowitzes, Sara Miller McCune to UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, and Roger Durling presenting to Lloyd.

The Jurkowitzes previously owned The Granada for many years and have generously given to the community with their philanthropic efforts. They were also key to establishing the SBCPA and are one of six Legacy Donors to the theater’s restoration campaign with a special piece of the family’s heart.

Legends Gala co-chairwomen Anne Towbes, left, and Gretchen Lieff.
Legends Gala co-chairwomen Anne Towbes, left, and Gretchen Lieff. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Daughter Debra and her 13 year-old son, Michael, both died tragically in a car crash. To maintain their legacy, the Jurkowitzes gave passionately to the theater, where Debra got her first job.

The family also established the Jurkowitz Center for Community Engagement at the theater, in honor of their daughter and grandson.

Recent programming from the Jurkowitz Center includes the Movies that Matter series, with an upcoming screening of Say Amen Anybody on Oct. 17.

“It’s wonderful being honored this way because there are so many people in Santa Barbara who are very philanthropic, and my wife and I feel honored that they chose us for this Legend,” Morrie Jurkowitz shared with Noozhawk.

“Philanthropy is a contagious thing, just like they say laughter is contagious. Giving is contagious, and if some people are giving it motivates you to give.”

The Granada is the downtown location for UCSB Arts & Lectures, which hosts some of the world’s biggest names for audiences to enjoy in an inspiring setting.

“UC Santa Barbara is so honored to be part of the local arts,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang told Noozhawk. “And we are so pleased with our Arts & Lectures program that helps us outreach to our wonderful community.”

Lloyd has a long career in film, stage and television, with iconic roles in the Back to the Future trilogy and The Addams Family movies, along with TV’s Taxi.

A five-minute video of each honoree was part of the tributes, screened on the theater’s state-of-the-art digital cinema system, and each honoree received a marble and acrylic award with The Granada’s unique and recognizable “G.”

Entertainment throughout the evening included performances by the Santa Barbara Symphony, Opera Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Ballet with dancers Leila Drake and Jack Stewart.

Funds raised from the gala will assist the SBCPA in its effort to provide a state-of-the-art venue within the historic theater district for The Granada’s eight resident companies, district partners, organizations and special events.

The theater’s eight resident companies include the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA), the Music Academy of the West, Opera Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Symphony, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, State Street Ballet, Theater League and UCSB Arts & Lectures. Historic theater partners with The Granada are the Lobero Theatre and the Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic.

The Granada does not receive ongoing support from local or state government and covers only half of its annual budget through ticket sales and other earned income.

Giving opportunities for this awe-inspiring facility include the Visionarios, Luminarios and Alhambra society, as well as Patron and Ovation Circles. Click here for more information.

The beauty and quality of the theater not only makes patrons and staff feel special but the companies and performers feel the splendor, too.

During the past few years, the community has enjoyed internationally famous soloists, orchestras, operas, dance troupes, esteemed guest speakers and more.

Honorees for the inaugural 2015 Legends event were Sarah and Roger Chrisman, Barry De Vorzon and CAMA.

Upcoming events at The Granada include UCSB Arts & Lectures hosting the CAMA Philharmonic Orchestra on Oct. 6; the Santa Barbara Symphony’s “Ode to Joy: Beethoven’s Ninth” on Oct. 15-16; the State Street Ballet’s An American Tango on Oct. 22; Opera Santa Barbara’s Carmen on Nov. 4 and 6; and the Theater League’s Broadway Christmas Wonderland on Nov. 29-30.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Sara and Roger Chrisman, left, honorees at the first Legends Gala, with Craig Springer, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts and the Chrisman executive director for The Granada Theatre. Click to view larger
Sara and Roger Chrisman, left, honorees at the first Legends Gala, with Craig Springer, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts and the Chrisman executive director for The Granada Theatre. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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