Local artists and community leaders gathered Friday at the Pasadena Playhouse to commemorate the Playhouse’s 80th anniversary and to celebrate their designation as the State Theater of California.
Assemblymember Chris Holden, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and Brad King, Chairman of the Board of the Pasadena Playhouse led other community leaders in the celebration. The Playhouse was officially designated on March 25, 1937 as California’s State Theater.
“The playhouse is one of those institutions that really make Pasadena what it is,” Tornek said of the commemoration. “This is a perfect illustration of how Pasadena, although a small city has a certain disproportionate footprint and an institution like the Pasadena Playhouse is part of the reason why that’s true.”
Tornek added the staff at the Playhouse has constantly strived to keep its stature as an essential part of the community, and continues to do so in the face of the challenges that modern technology brings to traditional forms of entertainment such as what the Playhouse continues to present.
“You need to keep constantly up to date and fresh in order to be competitive in this environment,” Tornek said. “People have a lot of alternatives of where they can get entertainment, so if they are going to continue to compete, they’ve got to be aggressive and do new things. I think that the folks that they’ve got on board now are really pursuing that dream.”
Assemblymember Chris Holden also spoke about how the Playhouse has reflected the heart and soul of Pasadena over the last hundred years.
“This is a part of our history of the arts and entertainment,” Holden said. “This theater came along at a time when community theaters were not certainly around. It gave an opportunity for artists to make their way here who have gone on to great fame and notoriety worldwide.”
Now in its centennial year, the Pasadena Playhouse has reigned as the second oldest regional theater in the nation and continues to be a historic arts institution dedicated to diversity, excellence and fostering new work.
The Playhouse has performed over 1,200 productions, 550 of which were new commissions, seven productions that were brought to Broadway and off-Broadway and over 500 world premieres.
Danny Feldman, Producing Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse, said Friday’s event was a “big anniversary” for the community and was a “celebration of the past and how it connects to our future.” He said it’s no small matter that the second oldest regional theater in the nation is in Pasadena.
“The Playhouse has certainly had its ups and downs very publicly over a hundred years,” Feldman said. “I think there’s a true line that I’m always amazed with this place, and that’s this community. The community has always been there for the theater – through bankruptcies, through good times, bad times.”
Feldman also spoke about how the Playhouse continues to maintain its edge in spite of the competition with other forms of media and entertainment.
“Always, no matter what happens in technology and movies, television and Twitter and internet, there’s a fundamental human need to gather with strangers in a room to hear human stories,” Feldman said. “I don’t think that’s ever going to change. And our job is just to remind people of that.”
The celebration also marked the first time that the State of California has awarded The Pasadena Playhouse funding to restore and renovate this historic theater, which is a California State landmark, and the second oldest professional theatre in the country.