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Home / Tony Award

Pasadena Playhouse receives regional theatre Tony Award

The Pasadena Playhouse received the 2023 regional theatre Tony Award during Sunday evening’s ceremony, honoring its history of presenting “innovative and inspiring” productions over the past century.

“This is an extraordinary honor and a defining moment for our community,” Pasadena Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman said in a statement when the award was announced. “Anyone who has worked at or experienced theater at Pasadena Playhouse 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,” Feldman said. “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.”

The playhouse was nominated for the award by the American Theatre Critics Association. The honor comes with a $25,000 grant.

“We are thrilled to present the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award to Pasadena Playhouse,” Heather Hitchens, president/CEO of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, said in a joint 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 award was presented during the 76th Tony Awards ceremony in New York, which aired on CBS.

The Pasadena Playhouse was founded in 1917 by Gilmor Brown, and thanks to donations from the community, the theater building itself was opened in 1925 on El Molino Avenue. It was quickly recognized as one of the largest theater complexes in the world, including five stages and the School for Theater Arts, later the College of Theatre Arts.

The complex is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and it was proclaimed the official State Theater of California in 1937, a title it still holds.

The theater itself helped launch the careers of countless performers, playwrights, directors and other industry greats. Among those who have walked the stage are Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Robert Preston, Sally Struthers, Raymond Burr, Eve Arden, Mako, Joanne Worley and Jamie Farr.

With the theater scene expanding locally, the Pasadena Playhouse was forced in the 1960s to close and declare bankruptcy, but it reopened in 1986 as a nonprofit and was quickly reestablished as a major player in the Southland theater scene, thanks to the leadership of artistic director Sheldon Epps.

The theater ran into more financial difficulties in 2010, but it rebounded again thanks to donors. Feldman took over as artistic director in 2016.

The Playhouse will mark its 100th anniversary in 2025.

“With an eye toward the future, the Playhouse will continue to lead the field with artistic excellence and quality, grow its educational opportunities for everyone, expand its family programming to develop future audiences, and secure funding to modernize the historical building and ensure its future,” according to a theater statement. “With the support of the community to which the Playhouse belongs, it will continue to be a beacon of innovation, excellence, and extraordinary storytelling. The Playhouse will continue to be an organization that makes theater for everyone.”

In 1977, the Mark Taper Forum became the only other Los Angeles area theater to receive the regional Tony Award. Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory won in 1988.

Since the honor began being awarded annually in 1976, six other California theaters have won including San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in 1984 and the La Jolla Playhouse in 1993. Northern California winners have included the Berkeley Repertory, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

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