Twenty-five years ago, married couple Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott decided to open up a theater.
Not in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that A Noise Within would have grown into what it is today.
The theme for the Pasadena theater company’s 25th anniversary season is, fittingly, “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams.”
“Four of the plays we are announcing for the 25th anniversary season are plays that speak loudly to us now from our history—‘The Imaginary Invalid,’ ‘King Lear,’ ‘Ah, Wilderness!’ and ‘Man of La Mancha,’” Elliott said. “’Arcadia’ and ‘The Maids’ are new for us. Together, our actors, artists and audience will take a journey through and beyond our wildest and sometimes simply wild dreams—the same journey that Julia and I have taken over this past quarter century.”
Elliott, Rodriquez- Elliott and A Noise Within’s third co-founder, Art Manke, attended the American Conservatory Theatre together in San Francisco. After graduation, they moved to Los Angeles and were working in television and film.
“We found ourselves constantly going out of town to work in live theater around the country,” Elliott said. “That was what we were trained to do.”
“In 1991 we were struggling students, fresh from American Conservatory Theater, and we used our last $3,000 to produce ‘Hamlet’,” Rodriguez-Elliott said. “It was a big success—and we learned a lot very quickly: that Los Angeles was filled with a lot of well-trained talent, that there was an audience that was hungry to see plays of substance, that there were people and resources willing to support this effort and that there was a press corps interested in writing about this work.”
“The Way of the World” and “The Merchant of Venice” followed their production of “Hamlet” at the former Masonic Temple in Glendale.
Elliott, Rodriguez-Elliott and Manke, then went to Waldenbooks to purchase a book about how to create their own nonprofit organization.
During the fall, they premiered their first season of six shows: “Coriolanus,” “Tartuffe,” “The Duchess of Malfi,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Man and Superman” and “Our Town.”
After approximately nine years, Manke left A Noise Within to pursue other endeavors.
“Somewhere in our 10th season, we began planning and finding the financing for the new A Noise Within Theatre at 3352 Foothill Blvd.,” Rodriguez-Elliott said. “As we celebrate our sixth season in this venue, with 286 seats, doubling our previous seating capacity, we have expanded our audience, surpassing our previous box office and attendance records each year here, increased our educational programming, and more fully realized our wildest dreams for our productions.”
She said that the Pasadena community has enthusiastically embraced and supported A Noise Within.
“It’s really an extraordinary community,” Rodriguez-Elliott said.
“It feels like home here,” Elliott said. “From the time we got here, it felt so right.”
It also helped that former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard was a fan of the organization and offered his support.
The theater is located in the former Stuart Pharmaceutical Building, a historic midcentury structure designed by famous architect Edward Durell Stone.
A Noise Within has grown tremendously over the last 25 years and has staged 166 productions. It earned four LA Stage Ovation Awards and nearly 30 Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. American Conservatory Theater presented Elliott and Rodriguez-Elliott with the “Contributions to the Field” Award in 2012.
A Noise Within has an 85 percent subscription renewal rate. It also has programs for school children and has served 250,000 students since its inception.
A Noise Within stages shows in sets of three in repertory, or on a rotating basis, with actors playing parts in different productions.
It will open the 2016-17 season with “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard, running from Sept. 4 to Nov. 20. The remaining season will be Jean Genet’s “The Maids” from Sept. 18 to Nov. 12; Molière’s “The Imaginary Invalid” from Oct. 9 to Nov. 19; Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” from Dec. 2-23; Shakespeare’s “King Lear” from Feb. 12 to May 6; Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness!” from March 5 to May 20 and Dale Wasserman’s “Man of La Mancha” from March 26 to May 21.
Rodriguez-Elliott and Elliott – who are producing artistic directors at A Noise Within – met while pursuing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Florida. They’ve been married for 32 years that Elliott describes as “the best years of my life.”
“We’re one-stop shoppers,” he said. “We got married. We had children together. We started a theater together. We produce together.”
They have an adult daughter, Alison, and a 14-year-old son, Jack.
For more information on A Noise Within or its upcoming season, visit www.ANoiseWithin.org or call 626-356-3100.