Pasadena Playhouse, a century-old theatrical institution and one of the oldest in America, was honored Tuesday with the 2023 Regional Theater Tony Award, making the state theater only the second company in L.A.’s history to receive the prestigious prize.
The award, which includes a $25,000 grant, will be presented at the 76th Tony Awards on June 11 in New York.
Pasadena Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman—who took over the helm of the theater in October 2016 after heading the vaunted LAByrinth Theater Company in New York City—had a dual mission upon his arrival: dig the nonprofit out of a financial free fall while balancing a mix of progressive and mainstream plays.
There were precarious times under his tenure—donations and attendance plummeted as the pandemic crushed theaters all over the country. There were times Feldman worried if the show would go on at all.
“It’s very meaningful for us, in particular to the many people who have been fighting for this theater to even exist,” Feldman told LA Mag. “We have stared into the face of death and made it to this—a Tony!”
The Mark Taper Forum was the first L.A. theater to receive the award, back in 1977. Tuesday’s Tony announcement, Pasadena Playhouse’s comeback story, was applauded by Governor Gavin Newsom and other California luminaries.
“Channeling an unparalleled spirit of community, creativity and innovation, Pasadena Playhouse has been redefining theater arts throughout the country and beyond for more than a century,” Newsom said in a statement. “This much-deserved award recognizes the extraordinary legacy of this world-renowned institution and all the dedicated artists, theater makers and supporters who help bring to life impactful stories for the ages.”
The theater has brought edgy, bold productions to the community with eclectic casts that celebrate LGBTQ+ actors and more diversity in its selection of plays from a Stephen Sondheim festival to a Little Shop of Horrors production that starred gay and trans actors.
Feldman will attend the Tonys in June to accept the award on behalf of the playhouse.