Pasadena Playhouse resuming the lease on its Carrie Hamilton second stage
Life on Earth may be about to end in "boom," a dark comedy by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, but the play's arrival in May will signal that theatrical life goes on at the Pasadena Playhouse -- or at least on its second stage, the 75-seat Carrie Hamilton Theatre.
When we last checked in with the Furious Theatre Company, the resident company that had enjoyed rent-free accommodations at the Carrie Hamilton since 2005, it had scrambled for $5,000 in emergency donations to pay the lease on its space.
It was mid-February, and Furious' big brother, host and benefactor, the Playhouse, had ceased operations indefinitely on Feb. 7 to cope with a financial crisis, leaving in doubt the lease payments it previously had covered. At the time, the Playhouse was still trying to get legal advice and figure out how to proceed, leaving its lease obligations up in the air.With Furious paying the rent for March, its show, "Men of Tortuga," went on. Not sure they could keep up payments, Furious company members began looking for a new home. But last week, says Nick Cernoch, the Furious Theatre general manager, Pasadena Playhouse executives confirmed that they were going to resume covering the lease, enabling Furious to stay put.
Sheldon Epps, the Playhouse's artistic director, said Thursday that he couldn't comment specifically on what has changed regarding his organization's ability to resume the lease, except that "I'm very happy that the circumstances have worked out to allow the Furious Theatre to continue our terrific collaboration and remain in residence in the Carrie Hamilton." As for the Playhouse's own suspended "Hothouse at the Playhouse" series at the Carrie Hamilton, in which new, unfinished plays have public readings, Epps said "it is our hope to resume as quickly as we can," using grant money the Playhouse received for the readings.
Cernoch said the lease on the Carrie Hamilton is paid directly to the Playhouse building's private owner, and is separate from the arrangement covering the mainstage, in which the owner leases the facility to the City of Pasadena, which sublets it to the Pasadena Playhouse .
As for "boom," it will open May 22. Last fall, Theatre Communications Group, the service organization for North America's nonprofit theaters, pegged Nachtrieb's play as its member companies' most-booked show of the 2009-10 season, with nine scheduled productions. Last year, Furious won strong reviews for its staging of the San Francisco playwright's "Hunter Gatherers," reviewed in The Times as a "bitingly hilarious black comedy" in which "a polite dinner party devolves into an orgy of pent-up rage, sex and bloodshed."
In "boom," Cernoch will play a misfit graduate student who discovers that the proverbial comet is indeed hurtling toward Earth. He finds a suitable prospective mate, adjourns with her to his laboratory-cum-bunker, and awaits his chance to begin repopulating the planet.
The other character is a narrator, likened by Cernoch to the Stage Manager in "Our Town," who frames and comments on the action. Julia Duffy, who received Emmy nominations as a supporting actress in the long-running "Newhart" TV series, will fill that role in the staging by Damaso Rodriguez, the Furious co-founder who directs most of the company's plays. The closing of the Pasadena Playhouse cost Rodriguez his day job as its associate artistic director. Last year, he staged the Playhouse's revival of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes," with Duffy playing a woebegone Southern gentlewoman (pictured).
Furious Theatre Company's other scheduled show is the fall world premiere of "NOgoodDEED," by the company's resident playwright, Matt Pelfrey. Cernoch said that even before the Pasadena Playhouse's troubles emerged, plans had called for seeking a different venue and a possible co-producer for the show, which needs more room onstage than the Hamilton affords. "It is kind of like a graphic novel onstage, with superheroes and flying and battles," he said.Cernoch said Furious will not seek reimbursement from the Playhouse for the lease payment it made to keep the Carrie Hamilton open last month for "Men of Tortuga."
"We're happy to be helpful in that situation, in keeping the lease going until they had time to figure out how to deal with it. We've had a pretty good deal the last five years there, not having to pay any rent. We had been in discussions before the Playhouse closed about how we could help offset the costs."
-- Mike Boehm