Pasadena’s Epps wins award


Citing the Pasadena Playhouse’s strides in diversifying its audience without compromising quality or sacrificing box office success, the James Irvine Foundation on Monday named playhouse artistic director Sheldon Epps as a winner of one of its 2007 Leadership Awards.

The $125,000 award recognizes California nonprofit leaders who are “successfully tackling pressing state issues that many considered intractable.” Besides Epps, the Irvine Foundation honored five other leaders from four educational and environmental organizations. The playhouse will receive at least $100,000 of the prize to use for its operations; Epps can spend up to $25,000 on his own “professional development.”

The citation noted that Epps, “one of the few African American artistic directors of a major regional theater in the country,” has succeeded since 1997 in engineering a “remarkable renaissance” in which the Pasadena Playhouse has increased its audience while diversifying it by age and race.


Among Epps’ recent coups: landing Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett to play lead roles in his sold-out 2006 revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning “Fences,” and the 2006 world premiere of “Sister Act: the Musical,” an adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg film. This fall, the playhouse will premiere “Ray Charles Live! -- A New Musical,” with book by Suzan-Lori Parks.

-- Mike Boehm