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Goodnight, Pasadena

February 7, 2010

Tonight won’t mark the first time the Pasadena Playhouse has gone indefinitely dark. The place is nearly a century on, pretty in its Mission/Spanish Revival way; no, it once sat empty for 16 years, feasted upon by transients and pigeons, and closes again when Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and five merry knights take their most final bows, and Christy Crowl lays down her baton around 9 pm.

Felicia Friesema

The Playhouse’s downward spiral has been well chronicled – multiple newspaper and blog accounts of its $2 million debt, the board’s commitment to Artistic Director Sheldon Epps, its hiring a year ago of Executive Director Stephen Eich – yet it closes. Tonight. A debt that could not be serviced, an arts commitment that could not be sustained.

Tickets, they say, sell the first act. Fundraising pays for the second. Even my simplistic knowledge of math lets me see there’s nothing left over for debt service. And if you’ve ever managed multiple credit cards by paying only the minimum due each month, you can well predict your state a year or two down the road.

So where have the deep pockets gone? Who is in a position – corporate, foundation, civic, patron – to get the Playhouse to an open curtain? The money hasn’t dried up completely: The California Endowment, The James Irvine Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Pasadena Community Foundation are among those that have made significant arts and cultural investments this past year.

So, tonight, Sheldon Epps and Stephen Eich will address the Playhouse’s “final” audience after the last hand claps for David Lee’s Camelot. Of course they will thank, and thank, and thank. Then, I trust, they will openly explain why they are leaving.

If ever I would leave you
It wouldn’t be in summer.
Seeing you in summer I never would go.
Your hair streaked with sun-light,
Your lips red as flame,
Your face witha lustre
that puts gold to shame!

But if I’d ever leave you,
It couldn’t be in autumn.
How I’d leave in autumn I never will know.
I’ve seen how you sparkle
When fall nips the air.
I know you in autumn
And I must be there.

And could I leave you
running merrily through the snow?
Or on a wintry evening
when you catch the fire’s glow?

If ever I would leave you,
How could it be in spring-time?
Knowing how in spring I’m bewitched by you so?
Oh, no! not in spring-time!
Summer, winter or fall!
No, never could I leave you at all!

So much for Camelot.

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