By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
1) Can an art form with average ticket prices starting at $35, not including parking (add $8 to $10), be expected to thrive in the middle of a recession that came for the weekend and isn't leaving anytime soon?
2) Can an art form that is forced, out of financial necessity, to scale back on its spectacle (cast size, production design) be expected to thrive, when spectacle lies at the heart of the art form? (The Slavic word for a theater production is specktacle.) Add to this question the reality that by the time they emerge from their teens, 90 perecent of American youth who have been exposed to any professional live theater have only experienced Broadway-style spectacles. Pasadena Playhouse's production of Camelot was sliced and diced to be performed on a bare-bones set by a mere eight actors (and that's now a large cast for a midsize theater). The theater insists this was an "aesthetic decision," but honestly now . . .
3) And finally: Who do we think we're kidding?
This is not the first time the Pasadena Playhouse has been shuttered. It was closed in 1969 for similar reasons (the theater's acting school followed in 1970). The building was saved from the wrecking ball thanks to a vigorous and successful community effort to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places, in 1975. Four years later, in 1979, the building was purchased by the city of Pasadena, which obtained an Economic Development Agency grant to pay for its restoration. It reopened with great fanfare in 1985.
We love our beautiful buildings, always have. But theater is what happens inside them. When that activity becomes something greater than an afterthought, something to be slotted in, that's when we'll have institutions that can sustain an art form that matters. Until then, the smaller the institution, the safer the home for the art. The safer the home, the more dangerous the art can be. And that may well be the key to the longevity, relevance and vitality of this art form.
And if that isn't the key, just a couple of very generous donors would surely help.