California Music Theatre Sings the Pasadena Blues : Funding: ‘I feel like the city is my enemy,’ the group’s director says after Arts Commission rejects its $45,000 grant application.


Should California Music Theatre remain in Pasadena?

That’s the biggest question raised by the organization’s managing director, James Blackman, in the wake of a Pasadena Arts Commission decision to reject a grant application from the group.

“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” declared Blackman. “There doesn’t seem to be an incentive to stay here. I feel like the city is my enemy.”

In the category in which CMT was competing--organizations with budgets over $500,000--the commission recommended grants of $35,100 to the Pasadena Playhouse (for its production of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”) and $10,006 to Kidspace Children’s Museum. Recommendations were approved Tuesday by the Board of City Directors.


Six other applications from major organizations, including the Pasadena Symphony and the Pacific-Asia Museum, also were not funded. Nor was a second application from the Pasadena Playhouse.

But Blackman concluded that “what they’re spelling out is that we can only have one (major) theater in Pasadena.”

The managing director of the theater to which he refers, the Pasadena Playhouse, is Lars Hansen. In 1986, Hansen was a co-founder of CMT with Gary Davis, but he left CMT to join the playhouse staff in 1988.

Hansen also is one of 11 members of the Arts Commission. To avoid conflict of interest, Hansen left the room during deliberations and voting on applications within the category in which the Playhouse and CMT were competing. But Blackman is “not confident that his opinions of our organizations were not a part of the deliberations,” he said.

Commission Chairwoman Dorrie Braun Poole acknowledged there is “longstanding bad blood” between Hansen and the CMT. But she said commissioners “were scrupulous to make sure Lars couldn’t be accused of biasing our decision.”

Asked what he thinks of the CMT, Hansen replied, “They’re doing a superb job building an audience and a resident company.”

CMT tried to answer criticisms raised by last year’s panel, said Blackman. To rectify the group’s dominance by one man, Davis, CMT hired Blackman as managing director last June and hired other directors for all but one of the CMT shows this season.

But this year’s panel still wasn’t impressed enough by CMT’s request for $45,000 for its production of “Sayonara,” an original musical scheduled for next season. According to acting commission director Hally Prater, the panel’s “primary concern” was the CMT application’s apportionment of some of the requested grant money to pay for star salaries.

People in other cities “have expressed an interest” in hosting CMT if it should decide to leave Pasadena, said Blackman. He cited inquiries from parties in Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Manhattan Beach.

Meanwhile, the American Musical Theatre Festival, formerly based in Carmel, has moved to Pasadena to become a part of CMT. The organization sponsors an annual new-musicals contest; the winner receives $2,000 and a possible staged reading or workshop production--to be held in Pasadena this fall.

COMING UP: The casting notices for the upcoming production of “City of Angels” at the Shubert Theatre say it will open Oct. 16, and “a tour of approximately five major cities is planned after a several-month engagement in Los Angeles.” But the show has not yet been officially announced, and the Shubert Organization’s Bernard Jacobs says the opening date is “still not firm.”

And here comes yet another “A Chorus Line,” this time “in association with” the New York Shakespeare Festival, making this “the official farewell tour.” Co-producer Richard Mancini said he was “99% sure” the tour will play Orange County Performing Arts Center in October and might touch down in San Diego. But it probably will steer clear of Los Angeles, where an independent “Chorus Line” opened at Las Palmas Theatre last week. A spokesman for the Orange County center confirmed only that the show was under consideration.

LOVE LETTERS WATCH: Gregory Harrison will replace Harry Hamlin as Polly Draper’s partner in performances of “Love Letters” at the Canon Theatre next week. Hamlin bowed out because of commitments to his new production company, said a spokeswoman for the show.

The following week’s casting also has changed. Valerie Bertinelli and Judd Nelson will replace Lesley Ann Warren and Beau Bridges, June 12-17. The switch was attributed to conflicts with filming schedules for Warren and Bridges.