Life and Arts

Theaters from Burbank to South Pasadena

Theaters from Burbank to South Pasadena
Actors Jack Heller, left, and Louise Davis run through a scene before performing “Tennessee in the Summer” at the Sidewalk Studio Theatre in Burbank.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Staff Photographer)

Shakespeare, Molière, musical romps, contemporary classics, comedies of all Jordi Galcerán’s descriptions, cutting-edge new work — theater in Southern California is varied, plentiful and far-flung, from the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and Center Theatre Group in downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica’s Broad Stage and beyond. It is worth noting, however, that an abundance of eclectic small, midsize and large professional theaters in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys contribute significantly to the mix.



Burbank Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank
(818) 955-8101


The attractive 130-seat Falcon Theatre is the creation of iconic director/writer/producer Garry Marshall (“Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “The Odd Couple”) and his producer daughter, Kathleen Marshall LaGambina. Its trademark: solidly professional new work, premieres and revivals performed by noteworthy actors from film, Broadway and the local and regional stage. The Falcon’s 2012-13 five-play subscription season opened this weekend with the American premiere of Jordi Galcerán’s corporate comedy, “The Grönholm Method,” Aug. 18 to Sept. 30. Upcoming: Neil Simon’s “I Ought to Be in Pictures” (Oct. 19 to Nov. 11) and the acclaimed Troubadour Theater Company’s new musical spoof, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS” (Dec. 7 to Jan. 13).


GTC Burbank
George Izay Park, 1111-b W. Olive Ave., Burban
(818) 528-6622


The Grove Theater Center (GTC) opened in 1994 and became a three-venue operation in Garden Grove and Fullerton. Run by original founders Kevin Cochran and Charles Johanson, GTC took over the 98-seat black-box theater in Burbank’s George Izay Park in 2001 and began focusing all of its efforts there in 2005. Its most recent show, a critically acclaimed production of Elmer Rice’s 1920s classic, “The Adding Machine,” had an extended run through Aug. 18. Many plays, however, are developed and launched through the theater’s New Play Initiative. Other recent GTC successes include “Eternal Equinox,” restaged Off Broadway last year; and Cochran’s “Bobby & Matt,” a 2011 New York Fringe Festival offering. GTC produces one to four plays a year, filling the downtime with outside productions. “Second Saturdays,” a new children’s matinee series presented by Enrichment Works, runs the second Saturday of each month.


Sidewalk Studio Theatre
4150 Riverside Drive, Burban
(818) 558-5702

Less than half a block over from the well-appointed Falcon Theatre is its lower-profile but intriguing neighbor, the 33-seat Sidewalk Studio Theatre, led by noted veteran director and teacher Sal Romeo. Most recently, Romeo directed the standout, very adult production of “Tennessee in the Summer,” based on the life of Tennessee Williams. Upcoming: A September revival of Grant Kramer’s award-winning solo show, “Shadow Boxing,” followed by an original drama by Irish playwright Fionnuala Kenny tentatively scheduled for a December run.


Theatre Banshe
3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burban
(818) 846-5323


This small nonprofit theater company, established in 1994 by Sean Branney and Leslie Baldwin and specializing in (but not limited to) Irish plays and playwrights, offers a season of three well-produced shows annually in its 85-seat black-box theater. The company’s recent production of “A Merchant of Venice,” was an LA Weekly “Pick of the Week” that Los Angeles Times theater reviewer F. Kathleen Foley called “a richly cogent entertainment that honors every syllable of the Bard’s text.” Next up in late October, with dates to be announced: the U.S. premiere of “The Muesli Belt,” by Jimmy Murphy, author of a previous Banshee success, “The Kings of the Kilburn High Road.”


Victory Theatre Center:

Little Victory
3324 West Victory Blvd., Burbank
(818) 841-5422

Big Victory
3326 West Victory Blvd, Burbank
(818) 841-5421

Founded in 1979 by Co-Artistic Directors Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny, two respected professional theater makers and teachers, the Victory Theatre Center today consists of the 91-seat Big Victory main stage and the 48-seat Little Victory. Gobetti and Ormeny’s strong support for emerging playwrights and new play development is central to the Victory’s mission, and the company’s productions have won numerous awards.


Dozens of world premieres include the Victory’s 1980 inaugural show: Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley’s “The Miss Firecracker Contest.” Now playing in the Big Victory through Sept. 16: “The Last Night Inn,” three plays by Anthony Montes, presented by the faculty of the New York Film Academy, where Gobetti teaches. In the Little Victory, Aug. 19, 2 p.m.: “Kids’ Corner,” a variety show for ages 4 to 10. Upcoming: Annie Abbott’s new one-woman show, “The Ugly Truth — A Comedy,” tentatively scheduled for late September.


Also in Burbank: The Colony Theatre. See the article here.



Alex Theatre
216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
(818) 243-2539

In addition to concerts, film screenings and a variety of other arts-related performance events, the landmark Alex Theatre — whose origins go back to 1920s vaudeville — is a regular home base for the Musical Theatre Guild, a nonprofit organization made up of theatrical professionals devoted to the preservation and quality presentation of musicals well-known and obscure, contemporary and classic. Stephen Sondheim, Terrence McNally, George Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Cole Porter are a tiny fraction of the composers, lyricists and book writers past and present spotlighted by MTG. These Actors’ Equity-sanctioned productions — also presented at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza — are performed as staged readings with choreography by a deep talent pool of pros from the Broadway and regional musical stage. Upcoming: Irving Berlin’s “Call Me Madam” (Nov. 19).


Glendale Centre Theatr
324 N. Orange St., Glendal
(818) 244-8481

The friendly, family-owned Glendale Centre Theatre, led by husband-and-wife producers Tim and Brenda Dietlein, was founded by Tim Dietlein’s grandparents in 1947. With 440 seats to fill, the venerable community theater offers such crowd-pleasers as “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” as well as shows for children. Productions in recent years have included professional actors under Guest Artist Equity contracts. The theater’s recent production of “On Golden Pond” featured noted veteran stage pros Salome Jens and Andrew Prine. Upcoming: “Little Shop of Horrors” (Aug. 23 to Oct. 6), “And Then There Were None” (Oct. 18 to Nov. 17), GCT’s 48th annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (Nov. 13 to Dec. 24).



Vanguard Repertory Company
5401 Morella Ave. #3, Valley Village (corporate office)
(818) 745-3327

Vanguard Rep recently finished its third annual professional “La Cañada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival” — innovative Equity productions of Shakespearean classics adapted to run 90 minutes or less — at Byrnes Amphitheatre on the grounds of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. Watch for its return next summer. Established in 2007 by Matthew Kellen Burgos and Sam Ross for the creation of new works and adaptations, and as a conduit for new projects and artists to other L.A.-area venues, Vanguard Rep also runs a comprehensive theater conservatory program. The company has new works in development and plans to expand its calendar of productions within the next year.



A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 356-3100

A Noise Within, Los Angeles’ leading professional classical theater company, launched its 20th anniversary season last fall with “Twelfth Night,” the inaugural production at its new 33,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art digs in Pasadena. Previously housed in Glendale in a former Masonic Temple, this much-lauded theater company, led by husband-and-wife co-founders and Co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, has seen its subscriber base nearly double since it made the gutsy move to the new multimillion-dollar venue. Upcoming: Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” (Sept. 29 to Nov. 18), “The Doctor’s Dilemma,” by George Bernard Shaw (Oct. 20 to Nov. 25) and “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 8 to 23).


Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena
(626) 356-7529

Designated the State Theater of California in 1937 and today one of this country’s major nonprofit regional theaters, the 684-seat Pasadena Playhouse still operates out of the elegant Spanish Colonial Revival style building that it has called home since 1925. Its future has been shaky at times, but after emerging from a short period of bankruptcy in 2010, the theater, under the stalwart leadership of Artistic Director Sheldon Epps, has had a string of high-profile successes — ”Blues for an Alabama Sky,” “Art,” “The Heiress” and “Jitney” (a co-production with South Coast Repertory) among them. Recent productions that have gone on to national tours, or to Broadway or Off Broadway runs, include “Looped” with Valerie Harper, “Sister Act: The Musical” and “Baby It’s You.” Upcoming: “Under My Skin,” a world premiere comedy (Sept. 19 to Oct. 7), Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” (Nov. 6 to Dec. 2) and “A Snow White Christmas,” a Lythgoe Family Production (Dec. 13 to 23).


Theatre @ Boston Court
70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena
(626) 683-6883

The lavish 99-seat Theatre @ Boston Court, home to edgy and bold artist-driven new work, opened in 2003 at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center. Its highly theatrical, thought-provoking, often movement-based offerings are informed by the complementary creative visions of Co-Artistic Directors Jessica Kubzansky and Michael Michetti. The theater’s critically acclaimed presentation of “The Government Inspector,” a world premiere adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol classic — and a co-production with the equally edgy Furious Theatre Company — runs through Aug. 26. Upcoming: “Creation,” a world premiere play by Kathryn Walat (Oct. 13 to Nov. 11).


Parson’s Nose Productions
Lineage Performing Arts Center, 89 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 403-7667

A company of classically trained artists in residence at the Lineage Performing Arts Center, Parson’s Nose was founded in 2000 by actors Lance Davis and Mary Chalon with a mission “to introduce classic theater to audiences of all ages.” The company’s broad-stroke, one-hour adaptations of comedies by Shakespeare, Molière, Goldoni and other classic playwrights and authors can be memorable for their hilarity, particularly when Davis, Michael Manuel and other longtime company members take the stage. Upcoming: “Reader’s Theatre: A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 22 and 23).



Fremont Centre Theatre
1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 441-5977

The 75-seat professional Fremont Centre Theatre, housed in an atmospheric, 1920s-era building (it was once a mortuary), opened in 1997 under the founding leadership of Co-Artistic Directors and married stage and screen actors James and Lissa Reynolds. Emphasizing new plays and emerging playwrights, the theater’s eclectic offerings range from the world premiere of “National Pastime” (the story of Jackie Robinson) and Lissa Reynolds’ touring signature show, “A Woman of Independent Means,” to FCT’s most recent show, “Holding On — Letting Go,” an exploration of illness and end-of-life issues, and Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theatre shows. Now running: a guest production of “How Obama Got His Groove Back,” a new comedy (Aug. 18 to Oct. 7). (Full disclosure: My daughter joined FCT’s staff in 2010.)