State of the Arts: Pasadena, CA

I previously posted the sad news that the venerable Pasadena Playhouse was closing. Its final curtain fell — at least for now — on 07 Feb 2010.

Even if you’ve never attended a performance there or live continents away, I mention it because it’s a troubling statement of the struggles of many artistic institutions to stay afloat in our times.

But I was saddened even more to gain the inside perspective of the founder and artistic director of the Pasadena Shakespeare Company in this LA Times opinion piece (excerpted here) about how little support she received from the city.

What’s the opposite of the current catchphrase — “good times?”

SOURCE: Pasadena’s arts-friendly reputation is undeserved

The lead paragraph of The Times’ Feb. 7 article, “A shifting canvas in Pasadena,” states that the “city has carried out a tradition of giving back in the form of art.” As the founder and artistic director of the defunct Pasadena Shakespeare Company, which performed 37 critically acclaimed productions over nine seasons, my experience is not consistent with the oft-repeated claim that Pasadena is supportive of the arts (at least in any meaningful way). Indeed, it comes as no surprise to me that the artistic canvas to which The Times refers is shifting — or in imminent danger of sinking beneath the waves.

One of the most frustrating things about the years that I struggled to keep the Pasadena Shakespeare Company afloat was the lack of interest or support from the city. Our productions drew audiences from all over Southern California, received great reviews and won numerous awards. But though I personally sent several opening-night invitations to the mayor, City Council members and other officials over the years, most never responded. A few council members attended our shows.

One day, when I was looking for a new home for the company, I was speaking with the head of the city’s cultural planning division. He called over the city’s director of planning and development, who happened to walk by, introduced me and explained our dilemma. This worthy said, “I wouldn’t even be talking to you except for him” — and he didn’t ever again.

Please follow the link above to the LA Times for more.

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