Fond Look Back at Pasadena Playhouse

While many New Yorkers stick their noses up at the thought of a “theatre scene” in Los Angeles, there is plenty of live theatre going on in the spread-out city. Some of it is actually worth watching. Having covered the Los Angeles theatre beat for a long while, it was always my hope to highlight the best of what the town had to offer, and during my time with, I often had great success in doing so.

Video I produced of 'Mask'
Video I produced of 'Of Mice and Men'

One venerable theatre that lent itself to my cause was the Pasadena Playhouse, a theatre founded in 1917 and the home to many inspiring theatrical works. Actors including Gene Hackman, Raymond Burr and Dustin Hoffman trained at the theatre — it was at one point known as the ‘Star Factory.’

Sadly, the Pasadena Playhouse has announced it will close Feb. 7 due to money troubles. “The playhouse is essentially out of cash and faces more than $500,000 in immediate bills, as well as payments on more than $1.5 million in bank loans,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Word of a potential disaster for the Playhouse started leaking late last year, with the wife of an audio supervisor writing on the Huffington Post, “If the Pasadena Playhouse closes, we all lose. The actors, the production staff, and most of all, the community.”

Sheldon Epps, the Playhouse’s artistic director said he’s holding out hope for a last-minute donation or help from the city. Read more about the Playhouse’s struggles at the LATimes.

As Los Angels readies to bid the Pasadena Playhouse farewell, I thought it best to remind people of the inspiring work staged at the theatre during my time out West.

A new musical, ‘Mask,’ based on the 1985 Universal motion picture, had its world premiere at the Playhouse in 2008 under the direction of Tony Award-winner Richard Maltby, Jr. Watch a video I produced for the production.

Director Paul Lazarus took on John Steinbeck’s classic sotry, ‘Of Mice and Men,’ giving it a Southern California spin with a focus on the plight of Mexican immigrants. Watch a video I produced for the production.

Now playing in London and soon to debut on Broadway, ‘Sister Act the Musical,’ with music by Disney alum Alan Menken, made its world premiere at the Playhouse in 2006. I had the chance to review this still in-progess production.

And I truly enjoyed reviewing the intriguing play ‘Orson’s Shadow’ in 2008 with riveting performances by actors Sharon Lawrence and Scott Lowell as the storied theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.

My only hope is that some type of donation or funding comes along in the near future, helping to re-open the Pasadena Playhouse. Without such breeding grounds for creativity, there is no telling how many pieces of art will go unseen.

Published by The Huffington Post on February 1, 2010.


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