Mar 1, 2010

Pasadena's Second Act?

Sheldon Epps gives a guardedly optimistic interview to the LA Times' Patt Morrison about the now-shuttered Playhouse. Apart from feeling more or less reassured by Epps' tone, I liked in particular this clarifying quote, the gist of which I long ago went hoarse repeating:
MORRISON: Gloria Swanson remarked in the 1960s that L.A. is not regarded as a theater town. Could you recycle that quote today?

EPPS: What surprises me is that inaccurate perception sustains itself, year after year. It's clearly not true. I don't think Los Angeles is second to any theater city in the world. The perception remains because there is this other big industry. If somehow the film and television industry were not here, everybody would think of L.A. as a great theater city.

You can cast a play as well or better here than anyplace in the world because of that other industry. I did [August Wilson's] "Fences" here two years ago. Look who I got to be in it because they live here: Laurence [Fishburne] and Angela [Bassett].
There's also a tidbit I'd never heard before. I knew that Sheldon was a preacher's kid from South L.A., but I didn't know this:
EPPS: People think I made this up, but I actually did see my first professional production at the Pasadena Playhouse, in 1964. It was [Carson McCullers'] "The Member of the Wedding," with Ethel Waters. I fell in love with going to the theater and really discovered the power of words to tell a story in a dramatic form.
He's mum about the specific future of the Playhouse, but he seems quietly confident that there is a future there at all, which is cause for some hope.

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