The Pasadena Playhouse


39 S. El Molino Ave.    | map |

Pasadena, CA   91101

(626) 356-7529

Website:  pasadenaplayhouse.org  |  twitter  |  the playhouse blog  |
| on facebook  |


Opened: 1925. The company was founded in 1917 by Gilmore Brown. Prior to building this venue, the theatre had rented the Savoy Theatre, a building later known as the Oaks.

Architect:   Elmer Grey, who also designed the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Huntington Library and the CalTech campus.

Dwight Gibbs was associate architect. Mr. Gibbs later went on to design the Carthay Circle Theatre.

The building originally housed a 4 year accredited training program for actors, the School for Theatre Arts. At its height, the program presented productions on 5 separate stages. The Pasadena Playhouse was designated by the legislature as the "State Theatre of California" in 1937.

The Playhouse and school closed in 1969.  The City of Pasadena bought the building in 1975 and later transferred it to developer David Houk. After renovation a new production company was formed to utilize the building but a school was no longer part of the program.

The backstage and classroom areas have so much space beyond the current production requirements that some areas are leased out as offices with an entrance in the alley.

Seating: 684. In addition to the Main Stage, there's a 72 seat venue, the Carrie Hamilton Theatre, on the second level of the north wing, just off the courtyard.

Status: The Playhouse's resident company has been active in presenting both new plays as well as revivals. After financial problems and a closure in 2010, the company is again presenting a full season.

The building is still privately owned. Pasadena Heritage notes on their "advocacy watch list" that they hold a historic preservation easement on the building, which is on the National Register. The city controls the use of the building, which is leased to the Pasadena Playhouse producing company.

More information:   See the L.A. Times Find Local listing for the Playhouse. 

Check out the website for the Pasadena Playhouse District which has a PDF for a district historic walking tour. 

See the Wikipedia article on the Pasadena Playhouse.



A view of the north wing. The lower level is
used as a restaurant, above is the 72 seat
Carrie Hamilton Theatre.


photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click on any of these to enlarge ]





Another view of the courtyard.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



Looking out into the courtyard
from the theatre entrance.


photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The lobby of the Pasadena Playhouse.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010




Another look at the lobby.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010




A view of the proscenium.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A look toward the rear of the theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A look offstage left.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A look offstage right.
Taking a break during a loadin.


photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A view from the rear of the main floor.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A view from the back of the balcony.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A detail of the ceiling in the balcony.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The rear of the stagehouse of the
Pasadena Playhouse. We're looking east.


photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The alley side of the stagehouse. Swivel 90
degrees to the right and you'd be looking
at the east side of the United Artists.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The rear of the United Artists Theatre.
Colorado Blvd. is to the right.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



    Wikipedia    

en.wikipedia.org



A nice look back into the auditorium in this
photo that accompanies the Wikipedia
article on the Pasadena Playhouse
full size view






A view of the theatre looking west.
Yes, that's the stagehouse behind it.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010


[ click to enlarge ]




about photos from other
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We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
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    California State Library   

www.library.ca.gov



The library has four photos of the Playhouse c. 1925 by
Frederick Martin. Here is one of his courtyard shots. 
full size view

Also by Mr. Martin:
  | another courtyard view -- upstairs in the north wing is the little theatre |
 | sidewalk view -- looking north | 
 | north courtyard wing -- looking toward the street |



The Library also has 12 views from the Mott-Merge
collection c. 1930. Here it's a look at the lobby. 
full size view



The lounge area. 
full size view




 Here we're looking at the Mott-Merge
shot of the proscenium box house left. 
full size view



A look at the proscenium and fire curtain. 
full size view

More Mott-Merge interior views:
another house left detail  |  proscenium and act curtain  |

Exterior views from the Mott-Merge collection:
from across the street  |  courtyard view  |
 | arches at auditorium entrance  |  sidewalk looking north  |
 |  courtyard -- auditorium entrance at left  |  similar view  |



    Card Cow   

www.cardcow.com



The Playhouse was the subject of many postcard
 views over the years.  This one is by Western
Publishing & Novelty Co.

full size view

Older views in the collection:
 |  postmarked 1949  |  another PH card  |  yet another  |



    eBay   

www.ebay.com


A postcard view of the Playhouse from
 Mac-2-Mac. It can be yours for $7.50.
Thanks to theatre sleuth Michelle
Gerdes for finding this one on eBay!



    L.A. Public Library Collection   

www.lapl.org



A 1924 view of the courtyard from the Library's collection.
full size view

More exterior views in the Library's collection:
another 1924 courtyard view  |  1928 courtyard view  |
1939 - Herman Schultheis  |   | 1940 -- courtyard and interior  |
 |  1951 -- from across the street  |  1979 view  |  1987 exterior  |




A 1925 look at the auditorium sidewall.
full size view



A 1925 photo of the proscenium and fire curtain.
The painting is by Pasadena artist Alson Clark.
full size view



    L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation   

www.lahtf.org  |  LAHTF on Facebook



A vintage view toward the rear of the house. 
full size view

This is a photo that the LAHTF was using to advertise
an "All About..." tour of the building in August 2011. The
organization lobbies for preservation of historic theatres
and regularly offers tours.



    L.A. Times   

www.latimes.com


This lovely view looking across the balcony appeared
 with a 2010 story by Mike Boehm about the company's
 money woes: "Pasadena Playhouse To Close...

The photo is by Lawrence K. Ho of the Times.
full size view

Also see:
 L.A. Times Find Local
listing for the Playhouse



    The Playhouse on MySpace   

www.myspace.com/pasadenaplayhouse/photos


A view of the auditorium. 
full size view




A look at the courtyard. 
full size view



    Pomona Public Library   

content.ci.pomona.ca.us



A 1944 Frasher Foto Postcard of the Pasadena
Playhouse. The photo is by Burton Frasher, Sr.
 full size view



    RFM Architects   




A sidewall view illustrating the restoration approach taken
by Richard F. McCann for then-owner David Houk to
restore period finishes. 
full size view  [ & discussion ]



    USC Archives    

digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm


A 1927 look at the exterior of the Pasadena Playhouse.
 full size view




A 1939 Dick Whittington photo looking west on Colorado Blvd.

 Note the Playhouse signage on the right.
In the next block on the left is the United Artists
Theatre, hiding behind the palm trees. 
full size view