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Danny Feldman to succeed Sheldon Epps as leader of Pasadena Playhouse

A view of the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse, the state theater of California.
(Bret Hartman / For The Times)

Danny Feldman will succeed Sheldon Epps at the helm of the Pasadena Playhouse, the company announced on Thursday. Feldman will take on the dual roles of artistic and executive director at the official state theater of California and is expected to start his new job in the fall.

Feldman currently serves as executive director of the acclaimed off-Broadway Labyrinth Theater Company in New York and before that headed the Reprise Theatre Company in L.A.

“Ever since I left L.A., which was about six years, ago, L.A. theater has been on my radar,” Feldman, 36, said in an interview. “It’s been my hometown. It’s where I fell in love with theater.”

Feldman will work closely with Epps during a transitional period, the playhouse said. The company is still working on a specific start date, a spokeswoman said, but it will be “sometime in the fall.”

Epps has led the playhouse for two decades. His retirement was announced in January, and he will take on the title of artistic director emeritus.

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Feldman hopes to bring his leadership experience at Labyrinth, which focuses on edgy, new plays, and Reprise, which produced musicals, to his new job.

Above all, “I believe the role of a theater is to be in dialogue with its community,” he said.

His dual role as artistic and executive director means that Feldman will oversee the creative and financial aspects of the company — roles that are traditionally divided between two individuals at nonprofit arts organizations.

“I believe I am up for it,” he said. “I enjoy fundraising. People look at it the wrong way. It’s about finding like-minded people.”

In recent years, the playhouse has been working toward stabilizing its finances after it temporarily closed in 2010 after filing for bankruptcy.

“I’m not shy about talking about that,” said Feldman. “People see it as something negative. It was really what enabled the playhouse to emerge ... stronger. Right now, we’re benefiting from it.”

Feldman is a native of West Hills and studied at UCLA. He served as general manager at Reprise, leaving in 2007. (The company shut down in 2013.)

Since then, he has worked at Labyrinth, the New York company whose members have included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stephen Adly Guirgis and John Ortiz. Hoffman once served as artistic director and regularly acted and directed for the company before his death in 2014.

The Pasadena Playhouse said that Feldman will oversee an annual budget of $6 million to $8 million and lead a staff of 25.

The company said that Feldman will plan its 2017-18 season. The playhouse also will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2017.

david.ng@latimes.com


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