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Broad-Way Boon to Westside Arts:

With ever-rising Westside real estate prices, what will $10 million buy?

A world-class performing arts center, that’s what.

Last week, philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad gave $10 million to create an endowment for programming and arts education at the new Santa Monica College performing arts center.

In honor of the gift from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the new modernist steel, stone, glass, and wood performing arts center will be named The Broad Stage and The Edye Second Space. The Broad Stage, set to open on September 20, is an intimate 499-seat state-of-the-art theater that will present renowned artists and world-class operas, symphonies, musicals, dance companies, film, and theater, under the leadership of artistic director Dale Franzen. The Broad Stage and The Edye Second Space are part of the school’s tradition of community service, providing programming, master classes, and special events for the public as well as for the K-12 and college levels.

“Los Angeles is one of the world’s cultural and artistic centers, with world-class museums, theater, opera, and symphony,” said Eli Broad at a press conference outside the new Broad Stage in Santa Monica. “We have the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, and now the Westside will have its own premiere performing arts venue. We need to ensure the sustainability of our city’s cultural offerings, and this endowment will enable The Broad Stage to have the necessary resources to maintain first-rate performances for the public.”

The Broad Stage combines the intimacy of a small theater with the acoustics and staging of a grand hall. Built with a variable proscenium and a stage comparable to theaters four times the size, The Broad Stage was designed by Santa Monica architect Renzo Zecchetto. Inspired by the intimacy of Italy’s “horseshoe” opera houses, the new theater allows eye contact with the actors, musicians, and dancers from any seat in the house.

The Edye Second Space is an adjacent black box theater. The simple and flexible performance space allows for readings, plays, and other small-audience offerings. Artists can come to The Edye to introduce new material or to experiment with dramatic, musical, and dance performances.

“Embedded in the original Santa Monica College charter is the call for a performing arts center, so The Broad Stage fulfills our mandate and our traditions,” said Santa Monica College President, Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “This performing arts center is a community ‘service’ of Santa Monica College, and we are proud to have a global theater befitting our identity as a world leader in education.”

“The Broad Stage is yet another of our county’s great cultural riches,” said County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “We have numerous arts venues, but this one is the crown jewel of the Westside. With this endowment, it is certain to have not only a sound future but also the best performances.”

Initially, Eli Broad insisted that one of the new theater spaces be named after Dustin Hoffman, an SMC alumnus, one of the complex’s earliest and most dedicated supporters, and chair of The Broad Stage’s artistic advisory board. The Broads were ultimately persuaded to have the venues named after them. Despite a lifetime of cultural philanthropy, this is the first performing arts center they have allowed to be named after them. “Edye loves the theater,” said Broad, “and after 53 years of marriage, I wanted to honor her by naming the second space The Edye.”

“Without people like the Broads, we wouldn’t have the commissioned work of Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and so many of the great painters,” Hoffman said. “How they use their capital is commendable.”

The $45 million Broad Stage and The Edye Second Space were financed with a $35 million bond measure passed by the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu in 2004, $5 million from private donors, and a 2002 bond measure for Santa Monica College improvements passed in 2002.

The Broad Stage and The Edye Second Space are located at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th Street.

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