The Tony Awards Administration Committee has announced that based on the recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association, the Pasadena Playhouse will be the recipient of the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The 76th Annual Tony Awards are scheduled to air June 11 on CBS. The honor is accompanied by a grant of $25,000 made possible by City National Bank’s generous support. “We are thrilled to present the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award to Pasadena Playhouse,” said Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League said in a written statement. “Pasadena Playhouse has made a significant impact – on both a local and global level – by developing some of the most innovative and inspiring works and artists.” The Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman said, “This is unbelievable. I was in my car when I got the call [about the award] and I almost ran my car off the road. It is highly unexpected but very meaningful. I’ve now got to go accept a Tony Award. I’m blown away! “This is an extraordinary honor and a defining moment for our community. Anyone who has worked at or experienced theater at Pasadena Playhouse, the official state theater of California, understands how unique and special a place it is. “At its core, the Playhouse is made up of an exceptional community of artists, arts administrators, production professionals, volunteers, audiences and supporters who are all connected and inspired by our founding ideal of being a theater of, by and for our community.
This most prestigious award honors every person who has played a role in making and continuing to make Pasadena Playhouse one of the great cultural institutions in America,” Feldman added. Under the leadership of Feldman since 2016, the Playhouse’s productions and community programs are centered on its founding idea of being a living force in its community, making theater for everyone. A Los Angeles native, Feldman joined the theater by way of a successful New York career on the eve of the Playhouse’s centennial anniversary. With a vision of returning the Playhouse to its roots as a community theater company the Playhouse has undergone yet another renaissance. Since he began, Feldman has continued moving the Playhouse forward with an eye toward the future, while honoring the past. Innovation is at the forefront of programming, with the exploration of new theatrical models including the current six-month celebration of Stephen Sondheim, created by thousands of professional and nonprofessional theater makers who have come together to honor a giant’s legacy. Not long after its inception a century ago, the Pasadena Playhouse quickly became a leader in the field. Gilmor Brown followed by creating innovative concepts that have become theatrical norms globally, including the enormously impactful “theater-in-the-round” staging technique. Because of Brown’s audacity in producing the entire Shakespeare canon, a feat no other theater in America could claim, the state legislature unanimously voted Pasadena Playhouse the official state theater of California in 1937, a mere 20 years after its founding, a title it still holds to this day. During its “golden era” between 1920- 1945, Pasadena Playhouse was home to some of the greats of the American theater including Martha Graham, Agnes DeMille and Tennessee Williams.
Its proximity and connection to Hollywood helped the theater to be dubbed the “Star Factory” with the number of celebrities who would be discovered on its stages. In 1928, Brown opened the Playhouse School of Theater Arts (later College of Theatre Arts) that quickly expanded as young performers from across the country came to Los Angeles and enrolled to break into the budding motion picture industry. Its pioneering threeyear accredited program offered BFA and MFA degrees in acting, directing, stage technology, playwriting, and theater administration quickly became one of the leading schools for theater training in the country. Some of the notable Pasadena Playhouse alumni include Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Sally Struthers, Joanne Worley, Robert Preston, Mako, Raymond Burr, Jamie Farr, Eve Arden, and hundreds more who went on to have successful careers in film, television and theater. In 1997, Sheldon Epps was appointed artistic director, ushering in a new era for the historic Playhouse. Reignited by his leadership, the Playhouse once again took a leadership role, this time in making diversity a priority both onstage and off. In his 20-year tenure the theater became well known for new musicals, revivals of important plays and musicals, growth in the education programs and new play development, and work that celebrated diverse content and casting. The Playhouse has reclaimed and redefined the honorary title of the state theater of California. The productions on stage reflect the diversity of the population and perspective of the great state, including the groundbreaking production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” featuring George Salazar and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. Now one of the oldest theater complexes in the country, the Pasadena Playhouse will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025. Pasadena Playhouse is internationally recognized for its significant role in the development of American theater. One of the most prolific theaters in the country, the Playhouse has staged thousands of original productions since its founding, including premieres of works by Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Suzan Lori Parks and hundreds more. For decades, its pioneering School for Theater Arts was a training ground for actors who went on to make significant contributions to the entertainment industry The American Theatre Wing’s 76th annual Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will air live on June 11, from the historic United Palace in New York City at 5 p.m. Pacific time on CBS.
First published in the June 1 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.