Pasadena Playhouse still trying to choose a script for getting out of debt

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The Pasadena Playhouse’s leadership aims to choose a script within three weeks -- not for a play to mount on the stage that went dark Feb. 7 because of financial woes, but for a legal scenario the company can follow as it tries to settle about $2 million in debt and eventually return to the boards.

Stephen Eich, the Playhouse’s managing director, said Wednesday that managers haven’t decided whether to file for bankruptcy, or try instead to raise enough money to pay off creditors and reestablish the theater without resorting to bankruptcy protection. Within three weeks, he said, board members and company executives will have picked a strategy and hired a lawyer to help them implement it.

Meanwhile, the Playhouse on Monday sent its subscribers an e-mail message thanking them for ‘your patience as we continue to seek solutions to the financial difficulties.’ The message added that ‘we are pleased to say that we have new optimism in our prospects.’

Eich said part of the optimism comes from ‘starting to understand options in bankruptcy, and that they can be more cooperative than brutal.’


He said about half the $2 million is owed to 5,700 subscribers who bought packages for as many as six plays. The Playhouse staged just the first, ‘Camelot,’ before shutting down.

Eich said some subscribers have demanded their money back, ‘but when we explain the process we’re in, they’re OK. Generally, they’ve been reasonable. I understand their anger. We’ve appealed for subscribers’ patience, and so far, so good.’

If the Playhouse does declare bankruptcy, subscribers would have the right to file claims as creditors with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, in hopes of getting back at least part of what they paid for their tickets.

Meanwhile, Eich said, other theater companies have proposed plans to honor the subscriptions if the Playhouse can’t. Those offers are ‘generous,’ he said, but at this point Playhouse leaders still aim to get the theater running again and present the shows subscribers paid for.

‘It’s so important to the organization, and the arts in Los Angeles, that subscribers be taken care of, that people don’t have a bad taste in their mouth,’ Eich said.

Whatever the resolution, Eich said, it’s ‘doubtful’ it will involve financial help from Pasadena taxpayers. He said he’s had talks with city officials and ‘they’re just not capable of finding money right now’ to help re-float the Playhouse.

While $2 million would be enough to settle the organization’s debts, Eich said, before the show can go on, the aim is to amass a large enough operating stake to ensure stability. ‘We want to be able to do it right and come back and never have this happen again.’

-- Mike Boehm


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Photo: Sign outside Pasadena Playhouse. Credit: Stefano Paltera/For The Times