The Granada Theatre will host the 7th Annual  Granada Theatre Legends Gala honoring individuals and organizations that have illuminated and advanced the arts in a significant way.

The 2023 Legends Gala, on Saturday, Sept. 16, will pay tribute to Brooks and Kate Firestone (philanthropists); Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic (cultural institution); and Fannie Flagg (artist).

“It’s a tremendous honor to celebrate Brooks and Kate Firestone, Fannie Flagg and Ensemble Theatre Company tonight, who are all remarkable in their own way, and have left an indelible mark on the arts, not just here in Santa Barbara, but around the world,” said Palmer Jackson, Jr., chairman of the Granada Theatre Board.

“Their contributions have not only enriched our lives, but have forged a legacy and remind us of the transformative power of the arts,” he said. 

The Legends Gala celebrates the region’s culture of arts and philanthropy with an evening on the stage of The Granada Theatre; entertainment from some of the theater’s resident companies; and an awards ceremony that salutes the honorees. 

Philanthropic Legends: Brooks and Kate Firestone

Philanthropists Brooks and Kate Firestone first met in 1956 at the stage door of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

Kate was a dancer with the English Royal Ballet and, according to Brooks, it was love at first sight. Two years later they married, and began a life together dedicated to family and community. 

Brooks’ grandfather was Harvey Firestone, a farm boy who founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, made industrial history, and grew a fortune.

After 12 years of working in the Firestone Tire Company, Brooks and his  family moved to the Santa Ynez Valley to found the Firestone Vineyard, the first winery in the area and an inspiration for a now world renowned wine region.

During his vineyard career, Brooks served as a Santa Barbara county supervisor and member of the California State Assembly.

Kate turned her focus to supporting Direct Relief in Santa Barbara during its infancy. The couple’s community involvement and longtime philanthropic support led the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation and the Santa Ynez Valley News to honor them with their 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Artistic Legend: Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg wrote, directed and starred in her first play, which she called “The Whoopee Girls,” when she was a fifth-grader in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. She loved every aspect of the process, and she hasn’t stopped.

By the time she was 19, Flagg was writing and producing television specials. Before long, she wrote for and appeared on “Candid Camer,” which led to a distinguished career as an actress and a writer in television, films and the theater.  

Flagg then decided to try her hand at narrative fiction, and in 1978 she won first place in fiction for a short story she had written at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

Now, Flagg is the bestselling author of “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man;” “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe;” “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!;” “Standing in the Rainbow;” “A Redbird Christmas;” “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven;” “I Still Dream About You;” “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion;” and “The Whole Town’s Talking.”

Flagg’s script for the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” was nominated for an Academy Award and the Writers Guild of America Award, and it won the highly regarded Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year.

In 1975 Flagg was living in Los Angeles when a friend suggested joining her for a drive up to Santa Barbara for lunch.

“It was so charming and pretty,” Flagg later said, that she bought a “little house” on Willina Lane, in the Montecito hedgerows, and moved in. She lived there for decades before relocating to a new home in Montecito.

Flaggmay live in California, but every once in a while, she said she feels the urge to return to her roots to visit family and friends in Alabama.

Friends from her home state will tell you that “you can’t be around her for very long without cracking a smile. She simply loves to make people feel good and to laugh. She is a wonderful storyteller, and weaves memories of growing up in the south in her characters and her books.”

Legendary Cultural Institution: Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara

Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara (ETC) began as the Ensemble Theatre Project in 1978 under the direction of Joseph Hanreddy. For the first three years, plays were performed at Trinity Episcopal Church.

In 1981, ETC made the 140-seat Alhecama Theatre its home for more than 25 years. Beginning in 2009, ETC undertook a $12.6 million renovation of the Victoria Hall Theater. It opened its new 300-seat home, the New Vic, in 2013. The New Vic has become a venue for dance, music, film and lectures.

After Hanreddy left Santa Barbara in 1985, Robert Grande Weiss became artistic director, a position he held until his retirement in 2006.

Jonathan Fox became executive artistic director in September 2006 and saw the company through great expansion. Jill Seltzer joined ETC as its managing director in 2016 and was succeeded in that position by Scott DeVine in 2022.

ETC, which became an Equity theater in 1989, is Santa Barbara’s sole professional theater company. The company, which presents five plays per season, has produced several American and West Coast premieres, and has garnered numerous awards over the years.

The 2023 Legends Gala is co-chaired by Anne Smith Towbes and Merryl Snow Zegar, and supported by a committee including Leslie Bains, Meg Burnham, Brooks Firestone, Audrey Hillman Fisher, Marc Normand Gelinas, Erin Graffy de Garcia, Susan Gulbransen, Deirdre Hade Arntz, Gretchen Lieff, and Joan Rutkowski. 

This year’s Legends Gala sponsors include: 

Diamond Sponsors: Dan and Meg Burnham; and Brooks and Kate Firestone.

Plantinum Sponsors: Roger and Sarah Chrisman; Audrey and Tim Fisher; and Zegar Family Foundation

All proceeds from the Legends Gala will help to ensure The Granada Theater continues to offer diverse live performances and programming. Funds raised from the gala also will assist the organization in its effort to provide best-practices business and marketing support services for The Granada’s eight resident companies, and its Historic Theatre District partners.

For more, contact Jill Seltzer, vice president for advancement, 805-899-3000 ext. 130 or, or visit