The Pasadena Playhouse is a member-supported theater and cultural center with over 100 years of history. It is one of the most prolific theaters in American history. It is also the official state theater of California. Their mission is to “enrich people’s lives through theater, community programs and learning.” From bold shows to classic theater performances, the Pasadena Playhouse offers something for everyone.

Pasadena Playhouse History

The Pasadena Community Playhouse was founded in 1917 by Gilmor Brown, and the theater shared performance space with a local burlesque house. He raised money from more than 1,000 Pasadena citizens to purchase land and build the theater at 39 South El Molino. It opened its doors in 1925 and has since become a national landmark.

The architect of the Pasadena Playhouse was Elmer Gray, who also designed the Beverly Hills Hotel, Huntington Museum and Wattles Mansion in the Hollywood Hills. We recently had the pleasure of selling one of his residential homes at 4803 Cromwell in Los Feliz, with escrow scheduled to close this week.

This theater is internationally known and revered thanks to experimental performances and learning programs, as well as a willingness to keep pushing the theater industry forward with new ideas. Many actors, directors and writers from Hollywood’s golden age of the 1930s-1950s actually got their start at the Pasadena Playhouse. It earned the nickname as the “Star Factory.” The theater was also named the official state theater of California in 1937, only 20 years after the first troupe was formed and 12 years after the actual theater space was built.

The Dark Years and Resurrection

The Playhouse actually closed in 1969 after Brown’s passing. It was dark for 16 years, but thankfully the Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse worked hard to secure the building’s landmark status and eventually reopening theater in 1986 as a not-for-profit organization. Ever since its revitalization, the Pasadena Playhouse has once again become one of the most prolific and influential theaters in the country. Several hit Broadway shows started out as modest performances at the Playhouse, including Sister Act, Purlie and Baby, It’s You.

In additional to regular theater performances throughout the year, the Pasadena Playhouse also offers a variety of community programs and educational resources that benefit students and artists throughout the San Gabriel Valley and all of Southern California.

Plan Your Visit to the Pasadena Playhouse

The Pasadena Playhouse has membership packages available for the 2022/2023 season that include ticket access to five upcoming shows—including their celebration of legendary musical writer, Stephen Sondheim. You can also purchase the PlayhousePass, which gives you early booking and discounted seats for any shows you want to attend. If you simply want to support the theater financially, you can donate funds and resources directly.

To learn more about the Pasadena Playhouse and to see their upcoming event calendar and program schedule, please visit their website.