Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott were two theater lovers with big dreams when they launched A Noise Within (ANW) as a rotating repertory theatre in 1991. Back then, the theater was based in a former Masonic Temple in Glendale, an imposing structure that provided a unique setting for the their annual selections of seven classic plays per year.
But for the past six years, ANW has been thriving in east Pasadena, in a three-story, 30,000 square foot facility that cost $13.5 million to complete. As they prepare for the start of their landmark 25th anniversary season, appropriately titled “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams,” they shared their thoughts on their impressive achievement.
“We’ve always worked with themes that sew the plays together in common and we ask the audience to notice as they experience the entire fall season,” says Elliott. “This time the theme was deeply personal for the two of us and our entire organization, in that we truly could have never imagined that we would be in the place we are in terms of this beautiful building in this incredible creative community of Pasadena.
“To have a loyal following and be the kind of place that we have sunk our roots here and continued to expand, all of these are beyond our wildest dreams,” he continues. “Each of these deal with mystery, dreams and great anticipation. It all made a complete and balanced sense to us.”
The season is already kicking off, with Tom Stoppard’s 1993 romantic comedy classic “Arcadia” having launched on Sept. 4 and running through Nov. 20. The play takes place in both 1809 through 1812 and the present day, as the activities of two modern scholars and the current residents of an English country house called Sibley Park try to unravel the big and small mysteries of the universe.
“Arcadia” will alternate with Jean Genet’s groundbreaking play “The Maids,” which runs Sept. 18 through Nov. 12 and is based loosely on the famous case of the Papin sisters, a pair of maids who murdered their employer and her daughter in 1933. The story is made even more disturbing by the fact that the two maids, Solange and Claire, engage in elaborate sadomasochistic rituals when their employer is away, with the play using the storyline to create “a trenchant statement about the accident of birth, the searing brutality of class distinctions, and the liberation that stems from destruction,” according to an ANW press release.
The rest of the “Wildest Dreams” season includes the comedy “The Imaginary Invalid” by Moliere (Oct. 9 through Nov. 19), “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (Dec. 2 through Dec. 23), and William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy “King Lear” (Feb. 12 through May 6). Those shows are followed by Eugene O’Neill’s comedy “Ah, Wilderness!” (March 5 through May 20) and the musical “Man of La Mancha” by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion (March 26 through May 21).
“I think over the years we’ve been able to gather extremely talented artists and been able to make the work relevant in the here and now,” says Rodriguez-Elliott. “It’s also a theater where we’ve always been focused on community. It was really about creating art of and about your community, and it’s always been about the community we serve — and that’s not just Pasadena but the greater Los Angeles area. We’re always thinking what are we doing for our folks?”
A Noise Within presents its “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams” season at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Tickets range from $40 to $76. Call (626) 356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org.