U.S. National Register of Historic Places
California Historical Landmark #887
A. Dwight Gibbs
Spanish Colonial Revival
NRHP reference #
Added to NRHP
November 11, 1975
Pasadena Playhouse is a historic performing arts venue located 39
S. El Molino Avenue in Pasadena, California, United States. The
686-seat auditorium produces a variety of cultural and artistic
events, professional shows, and community engagements each year.
1.1 Notable alumni and players
2 Awards and nominations
3 2010-2011 financial situation
5 External links
Beginning around 1912, the period known as the Little Theatre Movement
developed in cities and towns across the United States. The
artistic community that founded the
Pasadena Playhouse was started in
1916 when actor-director Gilmor Brown began producing a series of
plays at a renovated burlesque theatre with his troupe "The Gilmore
Brown Players". Brown established the Community Playhouse Association
of Pasadena in 1917 that would later become the Pasadena Playhouse
Association, which necessitated a new venue for productions.
The community theatre organization quickly grew and in May 1924, the
citizens of Pasadena raised funds to build a new theatre in the city
center at 39 South El Molino Avenue. Completed in 1925, the theatre
was designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style by Pasadena artist
and architect Elmer Grey, with a fire curtain painted by Pasadena
artist Alson S. Clark.
Its non-professional, community beginnings and the tremendous amount
of local support for the project led
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw to dub
Athens of the West", likening the enterprise to the
ancient Festival Dionysia.
The building that was designed by Grey and built by the Winter
Construction Co. drew the attention of the nation, bringing Southern
California world premieres by authors such as Eugene O'Neill, William
Saroyan, Noël Coward,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams, as
well as many English language premieres of significant Continental
dramas. The Playhouse was recognized by the Legislature as the State
California in 1937 after the laudable achievement of
having performed the entire
Shakespeare canon on a single stage for
the first time in the United States.
A school of theatre arts was established in the late 1920s that became
an accredited college by 1937, eventually training such notable
talents as Raymond Burr, Victor Mature, Ernest Borgnine, Eleanor
Parker, Charles Bronson, Mako, Jamie Farr, Gene Hackman, Dustin
Hoffman, Sally Struthers, and others. During the school years, the
Playhouse was very active, having as many as five independent stages
in operation at any given time, giving 306–322 performances annually
on the main stage alone. In order to provide housing for the many
students, older homes along El Molino Avenue were modified to become
The varied staging capabilities offered by its five venues led the
Playhouse to become one of the first companies in
experiment with new theatrical forms such as theatre-in-the-round.
The Playhouse also built and operated one of the first television
stations in Southern California. In addition to training the Air Force
to use television and radio equipment, the
Pasadena Playhouse supplied
the majority of Southern California's early TV stations with the first
trained technicians in the business.
A partial view of the theater auditorium
Due to changes in
Actors' Equity Association
Actors' Equity Association laws, and the opening of
drama departments in many schools and universities across the country,
the School of Theatre Arts shut down in 1969. Later that year, after
the death of founding director Gilmor Brown, the theatre itself went
bankrupt. After six years, the city bought the building in 1975 and
later transferred it to real estate developer David Houk. After 17
years of lying dormant, he relaunched the theatre in 1986 as a place
to develop shows that would tour other
California venues. While the
Pasadena Playhouse reopened for use as a community theatre, the acting
school remained closed. Over the next twenty years, the theatre staged
classic drama, new musicals and plays, and integrated itself as an
educational facility, slowly regaining a prominent place in the
national theatre scene to become a major operation of over eight
million dollars a year by 2008.
Notable alumni and players
Jack T. Chick
Maxine Cooper Gomberg
Yvonne Lime Fedderson
Samuel S. Hinds
Sandra Tsing Loh
Al Pacino (2017)
Harry Dean Stanton
Jo Anne Worley
Awards and nominations
2009 Ovation Awards
2009 Ovation Awards !2009 Ovation Awards
2011 Ovation Awards
2011 Ovation Awards !2011 Ovation Awards
Twist – An American Musical
Won for Scenic Design and Costume Design
2012 Ovation Awards
2012 Ovation Awards !2012 Ovation Awards
2013 Ovation Awards
2013 Ovation Awards !2013 Ovation Awards
Fallen Angels (play)
2010-2011 financial situation
Regardless of continued recent critical acclaim of the Playhouse, and
despite its steadily popular and ambitious season schedules, the
theatre had a history of financial difficulties since its reopening in
the 1980s. Saddled with millions of dollars' worth of debt from
earlier unforeseen expenditures during the theatre's restoration, the
Playhouse's operators struggled with balancing interest and loan
repayments with increasing running costs.
On January 29, 2010, the
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times announced that, due to
financial difficulties, the theatre would close on February 7 after
its run of the musical Camelot and cancel the remaining 2010
season. On May 11, 2010, the
Pasadena Playhouse filed for Chapter
11 bankruptcy protection and announced an intention to restructure its
operations to reduce its debt burden.
After less than four months, on July 7, 2010, it emerged from
bankruptcy after a multimillion-dollar anonymous matching fund
contribution toward operating costs and judicially approved debt
Pasadena Playhouse also reduced paid staff to
essential upper level administration, keeping the Artistic Director
Sheldon Epps as coordinator for the rest of the planned consolidation.
Director Epps announced through an interview with the LA Times that
the shake-up was intended to put the theatre back on solid financial
footing and ensure the Playhouse's survival into the future. The
Playhouse released a tentative Fall/Winter season schedule including
one new production of Dangerous Beauty slated for January
2011. Plans for a new extension and 400 seat venue designed
pro bono by Frank Gehry that was announced in 2007 were not
confirmed to be moving forward despite its possibility as a revenue
stream and the strong donation campaign already in place for its
Pasadena Playhouse intends to continue events slowly with a
reduced operating schedule and has already announced a new fundraising
campaign. The Playhouse operates under a nonprofit, LORT-B
designated regional theatre status. While traditionally it produced
six plays annually on its mainstage, under the new guidelines the
season will go through a possible reduction to under 4 productions
into the foreseeable future. A majority of the subscribers donated
the rest of their season back to the theatre rather than requesting
refunds, recusing the theatre of over a million dollars in possible
financial liability. Epps has said that as the debt burden is
lifted these steps will allow the theatre to carefully and responsibly
rebuild the company.
On April 1, 2011 the Playhouse held a "Premiere Gala: Opening Night"
to celebrate its newfound financial solvency and announce next year's
^ Bryer, Jackson. ed. The Theatre We Worked For. Yale University
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^ a b "
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Pasadena Playhouse Closes – has the domino effect begun? Is this
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2010-06-18. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
^ a b "Culture Monster". The
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^ Harris, Mike (2009-03-22). "John Alvin: veteran stage, film,
television actor, 91". Ventura County Star. Archived from the original
on 2013-01-05. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
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(1976). Hollywood Players: The Thirties. New Rochelle, New York:
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^ "Maxine Cooper". The Daily Telegraph. 2009-04-20. Retrieved
^ "Actor Don De Fore Devoted Family Man". The Montreal Gazette.
November 28, 1962. p. 11.
^ Barnes, Mike (April 11, 217). "Peter Hansen, Longtime Actor on
'General Hospital,' Dies at 95". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles:
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^ Staff, Variety (January 5, 1998). "
Eve McVeagh Gordon dies at 78".
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^ Kaufman, Dave (1968). TV 69: Who's Who, What's What in the New TV
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Paul Sorensen dies at 82". Variety. Los Angeles: Penske Media
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^ "Biography of Frank Wilcox". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved
February 17, 2013.
Pasadena Playhouse Receives Twelve Ovation Awards Nominations -
Los Angeles Sentinel HighBeam Research - FREE trial". Highbeam.com.
1998-10-21. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
^ Boehm, Mike (2010-01-30). "LA Times article on closure of Pasadena
Playhouse". Latimes.com. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
Pasadena Playhouse files
Chapter 11 petition".
Los Angeles Times.
May 11, 2010. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
^ Morrison, Patt (February 26, 2010). "Sheldon Epps: Play it again".
Los Angeles Times.
^ "Culture Monster". The
Los Angeles Times. July 19, 2010.
Pasadena Playhouse Receives Donation From Acclaimed Architect Frank
Gehry to Begin a Two-Phase Design Project of the Carrie Hamilton
Theatre in Honor of Carol Burnett and Her Late Daughter. - PR Newswire
HighBeam Research: Online Press Releases". Highbeam.com. 2007-02-19.
^ a b c "
Pasadena Playhouse ready for Act 2". Pasadena Star-News.
2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
Pasadena Playhouse announces first new production in months 89.3
KPCC". Scpr.org. Archived from the original on 2011-06-22. Retrieved
^ Pasadena Outlook, Vol. 5 No. 9
Pasadena Playhouse website
Pasadena Playhouse blog
Pasadena Playhouse MySpace page
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