The news, back in 2010, that an anonymous $1 million contribution from an angel had helped bring the Pasadena Playhouse out of chapter 11 bankruptcy may or may not have touched out a smattering of “who was it?” in the PP community. Or maybe everybody knew who these very generous donors were even if the donor (or donors) never wanted to be publicly thanked.
Well, now it can be told. The angels have emerged just as the venerable Pasadena theater is about to preset a production of – fittingly if you’re into name irony – Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels.”
(No it wasn’t Katie MacNichol and Pamela J. Gray who play Julia and Jane in Art Manke’s production who ponied up the $1 mill. ).
The real saviors this time are songwriter Mike Stoller and Corky Hale Stoller, both Playhouse board members. Mike Stoller is half of Lieber and Stoller, the team that wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog” and a whole bunch of other pretty famous tunes. Corky Hale Stoller is a singer, harpist and pianist who has performed with many celebrated performers from Peggy Lee to Mel Torme to Tony Bennet and Barbra Streisand. Husband and wife made their donation and promptly joined the Board of Directors.
The timing of this angelic unveiling isn’t just for angel-angel synchronicity. The Stollers are looking to challenge the community to live up to their generosity:” … with (the Stollers’) hope that other patrons and organizations will be inspired to contribute to The Playhouse’s continued efforts to bring excellence in the performing arts to its stage and the community.”
Pasadena theaters have been on the receiving end of late as a pair of smaller but nonetheless stellar houses were recipients of Building Excellence in Small Theatres (BEST) Awards from an angel of a nonprofit - the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation. A Noise Within, the classical repertory company that has called Pasadena home for slightly less than two years, and the Theater @ Boston Court – now in its 10th year in the Rose City- have each earned BEST awards between $10,000 and $25,000.
According to a news release , the two theaters were selected “based upon their ability to express their distinct approaches to creating an artistic product and making that work accessible to the community. Additionally, the Foundation sought to support dynamic organizations who demonstrated long-term thinking about their sustainability.”
Long-term and sustainability should be more than doable for A Noise Within and the Theater @ Boston Court. The classical company had been at a former Masonic temple in Glendale for nearly 20 years before finally building its new space in Pasadena while the Theater @ Boston Court, under the guidance of Michael Michetti and Jessica Kubzansky, is part of a thriving cultural center there on Mentor Avenue.
All three Pasadena theaters will have performances up and running concurrently. “Fallen Angels” opens this weekend. Boston Court has the world premiere of a new play by David Wiener, “Cassiopeia” playing through the end of February (read my review for “Backstage.”) and A Noise Within kicks its Spring repertory into gear with Frank Galati’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” with previews beginning Feb. 16. The repertory continues with Sarah Ruel’s “Eurydice” and “The Beaux Stratagem” (Ken Ludwig and Thornton Wilder adapting Farquhar).
Here’s how kind of incestuous things get in the theater community. You’ve got Michetti, the co-Artistic Director at Boston Court directing “Grapes of Wrath” for A Noise Within. Then you’ve got Art Manke, one of the three founders of A Noise Within (although no longer affiliated with the theater) directing “Fallen Angels” at the Pasadena Playhouse.
To read more about “Cassiopeia,” visit http://www.bostoncourt.com/events/160/cassiopeia.
“The Grapes of Wrath” : http://www.anoisewithin.org/play/the-grapes-of-wrath/#top
“Fallen Angels” : http://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/box-office/mainstage/fallen-angels.html