The Opportunity of Discovery: The Wallis’ Board Development Co-Chairs Envision a Bright Future

Board Development Co-Chairs Daphna Nazarian and Stephanie Blackmore Vahn, or as they endearingly call each other, “Yin and Yang,” sat down for a (virtual) interview to convey their steadfast love for The Wallis and its special community. In a powerful and unified message, they share their hopeful vision for The Wallis’ future.

Pictured: Stephanie Blackmore Vahn (R) and Daphna Nazarian (L).

As members of The Wallis’ Board of Directors and Co-Chairs of the Board Development Committee, why is the Hope @ The Wallis Resiliency Fund important to you as leaders of The Wallis, and personally as members of the greater Los Angeles community?

Stephanie: The Hope @ The Wallis Resiliency Fund is mandatory to sustain the viability of The Wallis to survive this pandemic. All cultural institutions are suffering and we face the loss of the vibrancy of cultural life in Southern California and, actually, all over the world. The Wallis, in order to open at all, needs this financial lifeline to sustain operations. Not only are we uncertain as to when we can open but we don’t even know under what limiting constraints we will be able to operate. I believe raising this money to support the existence of The Wallis is crucial to returning to a life of culture with music, drama, and dance when we are safe to do so.

Daphna: The fiscal health of any organization during a crisis is paramount and it relies on the strength of its Board to not only have the vision for the future, but to sustain it and be effective leaders during the crisis as it embarks on an unknown journey. As a Board Member, I believe initiating this fund is important for the community to see the value of the Board and our commitment to sustaining an amazing institution, to bring hope to the community for a brighter future as we open our doors.

What is your vision for The Wallis?

Daphna: The Wallis has been and will continue to be a platform to give talented and creative artists from within the broader community of Los Angeles, as well as throughout the US and internationally, the chance to be seen and heard. My vision is for The Wallis to continue with the diversity of exciting and high caliber productions that has always been an imperative feature in touching our lives and bringing relevant topics to the forefront and engaging our community. 

Stephanie: I want The Wallis to remain the vital force it has been since it opened over six years ago with programs for all age groups presenting a tremendous variety of programming! The outreach done by The Wallis with their educational programs is essential to groups such as The Miracle Project. It is the center of the performing arts community on the West Side of Los Angeles and is a cornerstone of cultural activities for Beverly Hills and the surrounding community. Under the leadership of The Wallis, this magnificent institution will only continue to get better and better when we are allowed to open.

What are you most excited about when the building can re-open?

Stephanie: I love The Wallis. I love the variety of performances they offer. I miss the vibrancy and excitement of seeing a live performance. I miss the energy created by the interaction of the audience with the performers.  I miss being with family and friends enjoying a social activity. All of these things I’m anxiously awaiting to enjoy again. I personally cannot live without the arts.

Daphna: The Wallis, particularly in its geographic location, is a center for community engagement, through interactive events, educational programs, and dynamic performances in the arts. The Wallis stands out because of the diversity of its programs—theater, dance, and music. As a gem in Beverly Hills, The Wallis is part of the fabric of the community, especially because of the historic building in which it is located. Sustaining and reopening The Wallis is essential, and I cannot wait to come to my community center again and see my Wallis Family once again vibrant and thriving.

What is your most memorable performance at The Wallis?

Daphna: Love Actually Live has been one of the most memorable programs, bringing all families together during the holidays. The resident dance companies—Jacob Jonas and BODYTRAFFIC—have left a lasting impression with their work. Debbie Allen’s Dance Sundays have brought the community together. Every event from theater, to dance, to music just adds a layer of vibrancy and culture to our community.

Daphna (continued): Part of the beauty of life is in the unknown and as mentioned, this beauty is coming to a performance at The Wallis that you know nothing about and discovering something new and exciting. From local to international performers, The Wallis gives the audience this opportunity for exploration and discovery.

Stephanie: I think I enjoy all of our performances at The Wallis because they are so diverse and wonderful. There is something for everyone. I also love the dance performances by BODYTRAFFIC and Jacob Jonas and Debbie Allen. I see Love Actually Live every year, too! It’s a family performance that is truly a joy for everyone. At the end, the entire audience is on its feet. I love the subtlety of a beautiful classical performance—I look forward to any Hershey Felder performance. I enjoy the smaller productions in the Lovelace, and especially enjoyed Frankenstein earlier this year. The beauty of The Wallis is that you know what you like and always enjoy those performances, but I am continually surprised by the performances I go to that I knew nothing about and end up loving. There is truly something for everyone.

About working together and for The Wallis, in their true “Yin and Yang” fashion, both Daphna and Stephanie agree that The Wallis is an incredible opportunity for colleagues and friends to get together and support a common cause. These two Wallis Board Development Co-Chairs embody the bright, bold spirit of The Wallis itself with the values of community engagement, diversity, and teamwork close to their hearts. With exuding love for The Wallis and each other, Daphna and Stephanie finish the interview by heartily agreeing in unison, about working together, “Two is better than one!”

Interview conducted by Mary Jo De Silva.

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All donors to Hope @ The Wallis will be recognized in a special issue of Performances magazine and will receive our exclusive annual donor benefits.