Pasadena Playhouse to take final bow, close after Sunday night's show

Pasadena Playhouse
Pasadena Playhouse

The debt-saddled Pasadena Playhouse will close when the curtain comes down on "Camelot'' tonight.

"It's a real irony that we have to go forth with news of this magnitude before we can get people to take notice," Stephen Eich, the theater's executive director, told the Pasadena Star-news.

Eich announced Jan. 29 that the 93-year-old theater would close after tonight's performance because it was about $3 million in debt. It's annual budget is about $7 million.

Other area theaters have offered to absorb some of the Pasadena Playhouse's 7,500 subscribers into their program, but no agreements have been made, Eich told the newspaper.

To reopen the theater and get its finances in shape, Eich estimated it would take as much as $10 million. All 37 staffers have been laid off.

Eich said the Playhouse has started discussions with legal counsel over how to move forward, including a possible bankruptcy.

The theater has twice filed for bankruptcy since its founding. In 1969, the historic building on South El Molino Avenue was taken over by the bank. It came close to being demolished before being bought by the city, which now leases it to the Playhouse for $1 a year, the Star-News reported.

The Playhouse reopened in 1986 after a major privately funded restoration, but in 1995 its then-operating company, Theatre Corp. of America, went bankrupt with debts of more than $9 million, including $2.8 million for the Playhouse.

The theater will maintain a presence at the Rosemead Boulevard space donated by Michele Dedeaux Engemann, chairwoman of the Pasadena Playhouse Board, and her husband Roger.

"We do have a place to sit and strategize, without overhead," Eich said. "A small group continues to do that, to find a way to figure this out. We're committed to moving us forward in the most responsible way possible."