Published : Thursday, January 7, 2016 | 12:40 PM
The Pasadena Playhouse announced today that Sheldon Epps will leave his post as Artistic Director at the end of the 2016-17 season. Epps will continue his long affiliation with The Playhouse when he assumes the role of Artistic Director Emeritus.
“I have had the privilege to helm this remarkable theatre for twenty years,” said Mr. Epps. “We have given voice to exciting playwrights and we have brought the classics to the stage using vibrant and exciting concepts that made them feel new. Our collaborations with other Los Angeles theatres have provided opportunities for innovative small companies to reach a wider audience on a larger stage. As the theatre approaches its centennial year and begins a search for new executive leadership, it seems an apt moment to announce my intentions for the future. I am honored to be part of creating a legacy that will carry The Playhouse into its next 100 years.”
“Sheldon has been an inspiration and driving force for The Pasadena Playhouse for almost two decades,” said David DiCristofaro, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “Through his leadership, we have broadened our reach through diversity and educational initiatives and surmounted significant challenges. Because of his vision, artistry, dedication and deep love for this theatre, The Pasadena Playhouse is recognized as one of the great American theatres.”
Epps joined The Playhouse in 1997 and immediately set about returning it to the forefront of the American theatre. Under his leadership, The Playhouse has earned distinction for productions of artistic excellence, critical and box office success, and highly praised for its theatrical diversity. He is responsible for building the audience base and creating outreach and educational programs that are an integral part of the community. Several musicals that began at The Pasadena Playhouse have found success on Broadway, in London and on tour. These include Baby, It’s You (2011 Tony nominee), Sister Act: The Musical (five Tony nominations in 2011), A Night With Janis Joplin (2014 Tony nomination) and Purlie among others. In 2010, when the financial future of The Playhouse looked grim, Mr. Epps led a dedicated team of board members and staff through a restructuring that put the theatre back on solid footing financially while continuing to produce with a high level of artistry. His efforts resulted in renewed support through grants from major donors and private individuals, including substantial support from the Wallace, Doris Duke Charitable, and James Irvine Foundations.
“I am especially proud of our success in the area of audience diversity, as well as diversity on stage. Our efforts have become a model for addressing these important issues for our field. I am also very proud of the outreach and educational programs The Playhouse has created to bring theatre to young audiences who may otherwise not have experienced the immeasurable impact of theatre,” said Epps.
Before beginning his tenure at The Playhouse, Epps served as Associate Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre for four years. He was also a co-founder of the off-Broadway theatre, The Production Company. Mr. Epps has directed both plays and musicals at many of the country’s major theatres including The Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Guthrie, Playwrights Horizons, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, and the Goodman Theatre. He conceived the highly acclaimed musicals Play On! and Blues In the Night, which both received Tony Award nominations. He directed productions of both of those shows on Broadway, in London, and at theatres around the world.
Mr. Epps has also had a busy career as a television director, helming episodes of shows such as “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Girlfriends” and many others. For more than a decade, he served as a member of the Executive Board of the Society of Directors and Choreographers. Mr. Epps received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for his efforts and accomplishments at The Pasadena Playhouse. He was the first leader of an arts organization to receive this prestigious award.
The Pasadena Playhouse began in 1917 and was recognized by the State Legislature as the State Theatre of California for bringing national and international renown to the state as a center for dramatic art in 1937. A new era began when Sheldon Epps became Artistic Director in 1997. Production highlights include the launch of the national tour of Purlie (with the Goodman Theatre); Sister Act: The Musical, which played in the West End at the London Palladium Theatre and on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre (Five 2011 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical) and is currently on a national tour; Baby, It’s You!, which played at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre (2011 Tony Award nominee); and Looped, which played at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre (2010 Tony Award nomination, Best Actress in a Play – Valerie Harper). Other productions developed at The Pasadena Playhouse include A Night With Janis Joplin (2014 Tony Award nominee), Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Story, Can Can: The Musical, and Ray Charles Live.