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Pasadena arts: Playhouse in the money; Symphony not

October 13, 2008 |  1:28 pm


Hemingway could provide the arts-and-finance headline out of Pasadena today: "To Have and Have Not." The Pasadena Playhouse announced that an anonymous donor has stepped up with $3 million, the largest gift in its history. It rings down the curtain on a five-year capital campaign that raised $11 million, exceeding the goal by $2.5 million. Nearly $6 million has gone into an endowment for maintenance, administrative costs and education programs.

The Pasadena Symphony, meanwhile, is canceling two shows while cutting its 2008-09 budget by $1 million. Axed from the schedule, pending board approval Thursday, are a Nov. 15 concert of Bartok and Brahms and a Dec. 6 holiday performance by the symphony's sister orchestra, the Pasadena Pops.

The roller-coaster stock market and banking crisis has wreaked havoc with the annual fundraising campaign the orchestra counted on to yield $3.2 million of its projected $5.3 million budget, Tom O'Connor, co-executive director, said today. Compounding the problem was a drop in its own investment portfolio from $8 million to $6.3 million -- meaning it no longer can count on the $400,000 it was expecting to draw from the endowment to fund this year's programs.

With the budget chopped to $4.3 million, O'Connor said, the plan now is to "take a breather and see what's happening" in the economy come January. This Saturday's "Celebrating Mexico" program, the opener of what's now a four-concert season, will go forward as scheduled at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, with guest-performers Mariachi Champaña Nevin. An audience of about 2,000 is expected. Notices will go out to subscribers and November ticket holders informing them of their options, O'Connor said. The budget crunch comes in a year when the symphony had cut prices for most seats to $30 rather than $45 or $50 in an effort to be more affordable; O'Connor said that now-beleaguered donors were being counted on to make up any resulting decrease in box office income.

Laurie Niles, a musician with the Pasadena Symphony, first reported the November concert's cancellation on her blog. She and other musicians were sent a 30-day notice, required under their contract, that the rehearsals and concert were canceled.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Music director Jorge Mester shares a congratulatory moment with Pasadena Symphony musicians during a January 2007 concert. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times