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Broke Pasadena Playhouse may be closing, but its school alumni still have money for scholarships

February 11, 2010 |  9:45 am

PasadenaPlyhseStefanoPalteraFTT The Pasadena Playhouse faces the great unknown after closing indefinitely Sunday evening while it tries to set right its finances.

But the Pasadena Playhouse Alumni and Associates wants the public to know that it’s business as usual for them: They're still giving away money to struggling theater students.

From 1928 to 1969, the Pasadena Playhouse wasn’t just a performance venue, but the home of a highly respected theater college whose alumni include Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and Sally Struthers, among many other famous names. Its alumni group is still active, and that includes providing five or six $5,000 scholarships annually to students in all theater disciplines who are about to begin or are in the midst of their collegiate careers.

Along with collecting and maintaining a Playhouse archive, the group’s website says that its most important function is overseeing the Henry and Joyce W. Sumid Scholarship. The endowment that generates the scholarship money came three years ago from Henry Sumid, a 1940 graduate of the school who went on to a career as a graphic artist and sculptor.

Pasadenaplayhouse “The Alumni is a totally separate organization” from the beleaguered theater company, Pete Parkin, the group’s president, said in an e-mail. “We will continue to support the Playhouse and do all that we can to help them out of the current dilemma,” but meanwhile the scholarship money is ready to be given away, and prospective applicants can check out the rules here.

Parkin says he earned his master’s degree from the Playhouse school in 1969, just in time to see it shut down. “I stood by with my MFA and watched as the doors were chained shut,” he writes. “I made a promise to myself at the time, that when the doors opened again I would be on hand to pull the rope on the first curtain to go up in the theater.” Seventeen years later, “I did just that.”

At age 70, Parkin reports, he is “one of the youngest” alumni. Regardless of the Playhouse’s fate, he adds, “We can keep [the scholarships] going until there is no one left to sign the checks. Just kidding.”

-- Mike Boehm


Pasadena Playhouse will close Feb. 7

Pasadena Playhouse says it is receiving pledge dollars - but is it enough?

Photos: Pasadena Playhouse interior; Playhouse courtyard. Credits: Stefano Paltera/for the Times;Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Times (courtyard).

Updated: An earlier version of this post mistakenly included an interior photo of the Geffen Playhouse.