Pandemic’s Second Year Drafts the New Normal

First published in the Jan. 1 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

Many activities returned in person in 2021. Few returned the same.
The coronavirus pandemic induced a wave of changes — some small, others major — across the United States, California and Glendale in 2021. COVID-19, which has killed more than 800,000 U.S. residents, still leered over the resumption of public events, in-person classes and crowd-thronged sports games. And with the rise of the virus’ Delta variant, as well as the more recent Omicron variant, officials announced additional restrictions and requirements, often influenced by the coronavirus vaccines.
But not only health orders reshaped daily life. Other movements, sometimes spurred by inequities and systemic gaps exposed during the pandemic, called for societal reforms both local and national. With an assault on the U.S. Capitol, there was continued outcry for racial justice, large-scale labor disputes and warnings from scientists about the effects of climate change. It became apparent the “new normal” wouldn’t simply mean seeing more masks.
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Glendale Youth Orchestra Returns to Alex Theatre

First published in the Nov. 13 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

The Glendale Youth Orchestra is returning to the concert stage after a 20-month pause from live performances for its 33rd season on Sunday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. at the Alex Theatre.
Conducted by Henry Shin, the orchestra will perform a program titled “Peter and the Wolf,” featuring a chamber-size orchestra performing Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”; Anderson’s “The Typewriter” and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with special guest, narrator Brad Keimach, conductor emeritus. The GYO is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.
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SAS on Course to Take Over Alex Theatre

First published in the Oct. 2 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

The Alex Theatre appeared poised for a leadership change after the Glendale City Council voted narrowly this week to give SAS Entertainment exclusive negotiation rights for the venue’s management.
Assuming the forthcoming negotiations are successful, SAS would dislodge Glendale Arts from a role it has held since 2008, when the nonprofit was tasked with bringing the historic theater into contemporary use. The decision Tuesday afternoon moves the city past a conversation that became contentious in June when some officials made it clear they may want to move on from partnership with Glendale Arts.
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Drama Over Alex Theatre Management Continues

Supporters of Glendale Arts demonstrate outside of City Hall on Tuesday, shortly before a special City Council meeting where the panel elected to negotiate with three bidders — include this organization — for the next long-term contract to manage the Alex Theatre.

In a split vote on Tuesday, the Glendale City Council opted to invite three candidates seeking to manage the Alex Theatre to negotiate, after entering the meeting aiming to meet with just two.

The council expects to meet in closed session soon to determine the parameters of the negotiations and potentially identify a council member who will attend and observe bargaining sessions but not actively participate. In the meantime, the city will continue to enact periodic extensions with Glendale Arts, which has managed the theater since 2008, to ensure there is no interruption in management as the landmark emerges from the restrictions of the coronavirus.

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City’s Dilemma: Who Should Manage Landmark?

The Glendale City Council seems poised to move in a different direction on Tuesday regarding the management of the Alex Theatre, unless it does an about-face on the sole agenda item for a special meeting that afternoon.

For now, the action recommended by the municipal staff is for the council to terminate exclusive negotiations with Glendale Arts, which has managed and operated the venue since 2008, and engage a different operator in a contract. Although the city and Glendale Arts have been in negotiations since April, the council itself earlier this month decided that talks had stalled, hence the possible change.

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Glendale Arts Elevates Two to Lead Organization

Two managing directors of Glendale Arts, the nonprofit organization that has managed the iconic Alex Theatre for years, were promoted to high-level executive roles this month and together will lead the group, starting Aug. 1.

Nina Crowe, who presently handles fundraising and special events, will be chief executive officer, while Maria Sahakian, who manages bookings, marketing and messaging for the theater, will be chief operating officer. The Glendale Arts Board of Directors unanimously approved the promotions.

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Big, Beautiful and 115 Years Old

Photo courtesy Glendale Arts

Glendale this week celebrated its 115th birthday as an incorporated city, as exemplified by the birthday wishes on the Alex Theatre’s historic marquee. The city incorporated on Feb. 15, 1906, and was the 16th city to form within Los Angeles County. Since that time, it has grown and developed into one of the largest suburbs in the county, with an estimated population of 205,000 residents making it the county’s fourth-largest city and the 23rd-largest city in California. Additionally, with around 26,000 students, the Glendale Unified School District is the third-largest school district in L.A. County.

Your Best Wishes for Future? Share Them at the Alex

Photos by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press
In employing the Alex Theatre’s gate as the Wishing Wall, Glendale Arts officials say they want to give residents and fans of the venue a chance to hope for a better 2021.

In need of a small outlet to unload your hope on the world as a largely interminable 2020 hurtles to an end?
The Alex Theatre has you covered. Or rather, it is inviting people to cover its front gate with their hopes, dreams and well wishes for 2021 — the start of which, many believe, signals the beginning of the end for the coronavirus pandemic that upended virtually all plans for this year. Passersby can take a paper tag from the bunch in front of the theater, scribble out their message and tie it alongside others on the metal gate — the Wishing Wall. People also may submit messages so that Glendale Arts staffers can post them on their behalf.

“The Alex has symbolized so many positive things for the community, and it’s done so for 95 years,” said Maria Sakahian, a managing director of Glendale Arts, which operates the theater. “Since we’re not able to open those gates and invite the public inside, we thought, ‘Why don’t we find a way for the physical structure to have that effect and nurture that feeling for the community, when people need it more than ever?’”
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Glendale Arts Celebrates Successful Telethon for Alex Theatre’s 95th Birthday

Photo by Keira Wight / Glendale News-Press
Participants (in alphabetical order) include: Jazzy Birdsong, Alexis Colett, Ashley Crowe, Nina Crowe, Elissa Glickman, Zach Hazelwood, Melynda Homes, Androuhi Keshishyan, Nick Massey, Chad Mata, Bob O’Neill, Bri Pattillo, Rafa Posada, Maria Sahakian and Hilary Sbei.

The heat was on at the Alex Theatre on Saturday, when the venue’s nonprofit management company Glendale Arts surpassed its $95,000 fundraising goal in honor of its 95th birthday milestone, which was celebrated with a 12-hour program presented in a telethon format and livestreamed and telecast on multiple platforms.
At the close of the Alex95 event, $98,339 had been raised for the preservation of the city-owned Alex Theatre and the programs and services offered by Glendale Arts, with donations continuing to come in from supporters. The performing arts and entertainment center has reduced its staff since the mandated lockdown took effect in March, but it remains committed to its mission of bringing the community together through the arts and entertainment while continuing to maintain the historic building.
Alex95 hosts journalist Palmira Perez-Najarian, former NBC4 weathercaster Fritz Coleman, and comedians Alonzo Bodden, Mary Basmadjian, Matt Kirshen and Michael Rayner entertained viewers throughout the program, sharing the wonder and promise of the Theatre with their own special connections and memories.
Program highlights included a guided tour of the Alex, video greetings from performers and artists, and familiar faces from the community, including honorary committee members and area elected officials, including Congressman Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian and City Council members Ara Najarian, Paula Devine, Ardy Kassakhian and Daniel Brotman.
“We’re thrilled with the outpouring of support for Alex95, which reaffirms the community’s love for its iconic cultural and architectural landmark,” said Glendale Arts Managing Director Nina Crowe.

Film Festival Founder Leaves Legacy of Passion for the Arts

Velvet Rhoades

As one close friend coined it, a light went out on Sunday, July 26, when longtime Glendale resident Velvet Rhodes, the idiosyncratic founder of the Glendale International Film Festival, died in hospice care after a four-year battle with stage-4 cancer.
Rhodes, who was 70, is survived by a brother in Tennessee and a cousin in Arizona. She leaves with her friends and colleagues the memory of a strong-willed woman whose fashion ensemble for the day would often announce her arrival to an event, whose passion for performing arts and her festival were positively radioactive, and who, by numerous accounts, would not take “no” for an answer.
“I think really that’s the thing that stood out most about Velvet,” said Elissa Glickman, CEO of Glendale Arts, which operates the Alex Theatre. “At our first meeting, she pitched me an idea and concept that I wasn’t so keen on, but what her project could have brought to the community was so important that she made us believe that our vision could be her vision and it could translate into something really special to our community.”

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