I never imagined a time when theaters and concert halls would be dark, when people worldwide would have to make do without live performances. As the weeks stretched into months and then became more than a year, there were times it seemed impossible that the moment would come when we would reopen again. Even more than my worries about standing up The Soraya again, I worried about the state of the arts more generally, and the great hole left without them. Maybe you can sense that I’m very high-minded about this. While The Soraya is a venue and a business, I do believe that what transpires on our stage and in the auditorium and lobby is essential. It may be intangible, but I’m certain that a world without live performance is a world without common ground, without a certain kind of joy that comes from clapping hands together, and without that opportunity to forget our differences and recognize our humanity, sometimes shared across centuries and continents. Few places do what a theater does – allow us to share beauty, pain, and even the beauty of pain.
At long last, this moment has arrived. While we’ve been dark, so much in the world has changed. It’s not the same place that it was in March of 2020 when Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony blazed from the bow of Joshua Bell, leading Academy of St Martin in the Fields. So much has changed at The Soraya as well. The vast majority of our staff is new, especially the hard working individuals you encounter from the parking lot to the ticket office to your seat. There are new health and safety measures to implement and enforce. We have transitioned to a digital program book and digital tickets in order to maintain a touch-free environment. I could go on with many changes you won’t even notice, but suffice to say, it’s almost like we’re starting over again.
What hasn’t changed is our commitment to high quality music and dance, to the many cultures from around the world that we welcome to the Valley, and to an education for young people that includes all of the above. We are as moved as ever by welcoming an audience as diverse as our region’s and to eliminating obstacles for their participation whenever possible. We are as engaged as ever with the CSUN campus and its students, confident that every touch point they have with artists will make them better citizens and humans. And we will strive, just as ever, to provide the best possible experience for everyone who walks through these doors.
I owe a big debt of gratitude to The Soraya staff who strived and strained to keep us afloat, and vital, and ready to reopen. Along with their tireless efforts, CSUN’s leadership stood by us all along. And to every supporter who never lost faith, who sent a donation or a kind word – we needed that. As we finally celebrate our 10th Anniversary in person, I am grateful to our Founders and other individuals who, despite all odds, made this extraordinary venue possible, along with those who came along afterward, seeing its value and investing generously. Chief among those is the Nazarian family. And to all the artists in our 10th Anniversary celebration who have endured the disappointment of multiple rounds of postponements, who went without their livelihood for so long, and who picked up the phone every time I called, answering with steadfast commitment, humor, and magical thinking – without your patience and your partnership, we would have had no inspiration to stay the course.
This is a moment built upon the steadfast commitment of many. As we reopen, everyone should take a bow. And though the pandemic may yet have twists and turns, may theaters and concert halls remain open to offer some modicum of healing that goes beyond the realm of medicine. If the past year taught us anything, it’s that we all need that.