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Crowning A Years-Long Comeback, The Pasadena Playhouse Will Receive Regional Tony Award

Published on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 | 10:01 am

The Pasadena Playhouse will receive the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award on June 11 in New York, joining the Mark Taper Forum as the only two Los Angeles theatres ever to be so honored. 

The Tony Awards Administration Committee said the decision comes as a result of a recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association. 

Along with the prestigious award, Pasadena Playhouse will also receive a $25,000 grant provided by City National Bank.

Heather Hitchens, the President and CEO of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, the President of The Broadway League, expressed their enthusiasm in presenting the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award to Pasadena Playhouse. They commended the Playhouse for its significant contributions to the local and global theater scene, recognizing its commitment to developing innovative works and supporting talented artists.

Pasadena Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director, Danny Feldman, called the award an extraordinary honor and a defining moment for the community. 

Feldman praised the Playhouse as a unique and special place, emphasizing the exceptional community of artists, arts administrators, production professionals, volunteers, audiences, and supporters who have contributed to its success. He credited the Playhouse’s founding ideal of being a theater of, by, and for the community as the driving force behind its cultural significance.

As the official State Theater of California, Pasadena Playhouse has gained international recognition for its pivotal role in the growth and advancement of American theater. Since its establishment in 1917, the Playhouse has presented numerous original productions, including premieres of renowned playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, and Suzan Lori Parks. 

The Playhouse’s School for Theater Arts has also played a vital role in shaping the careers of actors and theater makers who have made significant contributions to the entertainment industry.

Pasadena Playhouse stands as one of America’s oldest and most storied theaters. Founded as a community theater by Gilmor Brown in 1917, the Playhouse quickly gained recognition for its innovative concepts, including the influential “theater-in-the-round” staging technique. Its proximity to Hollywood led to the discovery of numerous celebrities on its stages, earning it the moniker “Star Factory.” The Playhouse became renowned for its contribution to the film industry, particularly during the transition from silent films to talkies.

However, the Playhouse faced challenges in the 1960s, experiencing a lack of leadership and direction. Competing theaters emerged in downtown Los Angeles, drawing patrons away from the Playhouse. Additionally, USC and UCLA established drama departments, resulting in a decline in enrollment for the Playhouse’s theater arts school. In 1969, the college closed, and the theater itself faced bankruptcy.

Despite these setbacks, the Playhouse’s future was secured through the efforts of The Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse, a volunteer group that worked tirelessly to preserve the theater and obtain its California State Landmark status. After several real estate transactions, the Playhouse reopened as a nonprofit theater in 1986. In 1997, Sheldon Epps became the Artistic Director and ushered in a new era for the Playhouse, emphasizing diversity in its productions and programs.

Danny Feldman took on the role of Producing Artistic Director in 2016, vowing to return the Playhouse to its community-centric roots. Under his leadership, the Playhouse has continued to innovate and embrace diversity in its programming. Notable successes include the groundbreaking production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” featuring George Salazar and Mj Rodriguez. The Playhouse has also explored new theatrical models and engaged both professionals and nonprofessionals in honoring the legacy of Stephen Sondheim.

With its centennial anniversary approaching in 2025, Pasadena Playhouse remains committed to artistic excellence, expanding educational opportunities, and securing funding for the preservation and modernization of its historical building. The Playhouse aims to continue making theater accessible to all and serve as a leading force in the field.

The 76th Annual Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will be broadcast live on June 11 from the historic United Palace in Washington Heights, New York City. CBS will air the ceremony from 8:00-11:00 PM ET/5:00-8:00 PM PT, with live streaming and on-demand access available on Paramount+. A pre-show, “The Tony Awards: Act One,” featuring exclusive content, will be presented by CBS and Pluto TV on Pluto TV’s free streaming television service.

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