Furious Theatre staying as tenant at Pasadena Playhouse – for now
The Furious Theatre Co. could be forgiven for living up to its name just now. When the Pasadena Playhouse pulled the plug on itself on Sunday, it also short-circuited the rent-free status the respected small ensemble had enjoyed as the guest company-in-residence at the Playhouse's second stage, the 75-seat Carrie Hamilton Theatre.
But instead of getting mad, the Furious crew got busy. Nick Cernoch, the company's general manager, said Friday that it had raised $5,000 since Jan. 29, when the Playhouse announced it was ceasing operations indefinitely to get its long-troubled finances in order.
The money, from board members and other past patrons, will cover the rent through March, paid to the private landlord who owns the 1925-vintage Playhouse building. That will allow Furious Theatre's season-opening play, "Men of Tortuga," to go on as planned.
Cernoch said the show's West Coast premiere has been pushed back a week, to Feb. 27, and will run Thursdays through Sundays until March 28. It's a comedy about some power brokers -- playwright Jason Wells doesn't specify whether their game is politics or business -- who conspire to have a rival assassinated. The director, Alexis Chamow, was the Pasadena Playhouse's director of education until she became one of the 37 employees laid off when the company closed.
"Symbolically, it means a lot to us in these times of turmoil at the Playhouse to keep theater going on on the campus," Cernoch said. Practically, it also made sense: Hasty scouting around, he said, showed that it would have cost $6,000 or more to rent another space on short notice. And further costs would have been incurred reconfiguring the custom-designed set.
After "Tortuga" comes a question mark. Furious aims to carry on with the two other shows planned for 2010: the spring L.A. premiere of "boom," by Peter Sinn Nachtreib, and the world premiere this fall of "NogoodDeed," by Matt Pelfrey. Damaso Rodriguez, the Furious co-founder and Pasadena Playhouse associate artistic director, is slotted to stage both. But where that stage will be is in doubt.
Furious will explore moving to share a space -- and rent -- with another small company in the L.A. area, encouraged, Cernoch said, by the good experience it had last year collaborating with the Theatre@Boston Court on a show at the 99-seat Boston Court Performing Arts Center, which is also in Pasadena.
Staying put at the Carrie Hamilton while taking on a rent-sharing theatrical boarder is a possibility as well. "We're open to anything that makes the most sense, and looking for other organizations that are looking out for themselves in the same way," Cernoch said.
As Furious tries to adjust from an uncommonly favored junior partner status to being one more small theater that needs to sweat the rent, its deepest hope is that the Pasadena Playhouse can emerge from limbo with a new lease on life, not to mention on the Carrie Hamilton Theatre. .
Said Cernoch: "With a small theater it's like walking a tightrope, and having this news happen when it did was kind of like having someone shake the tightrope really hard." .
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: Furious Theatre Co.'s co-founders just before the company's 2002 debut: from left, Brad Price, Shawn Lee Martin, Vonessa Martin, Sara Hennessy, Damaso Rodriguez and Eric Pargnac. Credit: Los Angeles Times