Lars Hansen dies at 60; Pasadena Playhouse executive director


Lars Hansen, a cultural arts administrator whose long career included overseeing the Pasadena Playhouse and the Theater League Alliance of Southern California, has died. He was 60.

Hansen died Sunday of complications from liver cancer at his home in Palm Springs, said Anthony Amendola, his husband.

“Lars offered many years of diligent service to the Los Angeles theater community, and was for some time a vital supporter of a number of valuable companies in our city, including the playhouse,” Sheldon Epps, Pasadena Playhouse artistic director, said in a statement.

From 1988 to 1999, Hansen served as managing director and executive director of the Pasadena Playhouse, where he was responsible for presenting more than 150 plays and musicals, including four that went to Broadway -- “Mail,” “Accomplice,” “Solitary Confinement” and “The Twilight of the Golds.” (The theater plans to close Sunday as a result of financial hardship.)

Named president in 1999 of the service and advocacy group Theater League Alliance -- now called LA Stage Alliance -- Hansen said the opportunity was “too exciting” to pass up.

One reason was his belief that baby-boomers were only beginning to discover the stage.

“They’ve been rafting, the kids are grown, they’re ready for the theater,” Hansen told The Times in 1999.

The alliance is best known for its annual Ovation Awards that honor local theater, but Hansen led it into other major ventures, including launching online, day-of-performance, half-price ticketing; and creating an arts magazine, LA Stage.

In 2001, Hansen was named USC’s first executive director of the office of cultural relations, charged with maintaining strategic relationships with cultural institutions in Los Angeles. He stayed until 2004.

“He was great,” said Susan Heitman, associate senior vice president for university public relations. “He had come with a history and knew a lot of people and got us thinking in a more ‘outreach for the arts’ way.”

Lars Henry Hansen was born July 11, 1949, in Long Beach, one of three sons of Louis and Alberta Hansen.

At a young age, he played accordion and later studied piano and bass.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1973 in music at Cal State Long Beach and did graduate work in secondary education administration at the school and UC Irvine.

Afterward, he chaired the music department at El Toro High School in Lake Forest and directed its marching band.

His other arts experience included leadership positions with the Long Beach Civic Light Opera from 1977 to 1982 and co-founding the now-defunct California Music Theatre in 1986.

“He was very exuberant and outgoing,” Heitman said. “He brought people together and really had an impact.”

Hansen is survived by Amendola, his partner of 21 years whom he married in 2008, and a brother, Ralph J. Hansen.

Services are pending.