The Top Live Theaters in Pasadena

Live theater in Pasadena has a long and varied history. At times there have been as many as five or six live theater companies in Pasadena but there is also the sad period from 1969 to 1986 when the famed Pasadena Playhouse was closed and fell into disrepair. But no matter what the numbers, live theater in Pasadena can draw from a huge and talented pool of actors, directors, and other theater professionals and all live theater productions in Pasadena are of very high quality. Here are some suggestions for a night at the theater.

300 E. Green St.
Pasadena, Ca 91101
626 449 7360

The Pasadena Civic is home to a wide variety of performances from symphony concerts to speeches by world figures, but it also presents live theater in the form of traveling Broadway musicals. These are of uniformly high quality.

The Pasadena Civic was built in 1931 and has 3029 seats. Its architecture is hard to define, but its mixture of Greco-Roman, Egyptian, California Mission and art deco somehow seems to work and the theater is a visual delight. Not so delightful are some seats behind pillars giving only a partial sight of the stage. Acoustics vary from good in the front orchestra to only so so in the back of the theater to good again in the front balcony and not so good in the rear. When buying tickets be sure you have a good line of sight and good acoustics.

There is paid parking all around the Civic.

1000 Fremont Ave.
South Pasadena, Ca 91030
626 441 5977

Strictly speaking this live theater company is not in Pasadena but in South Pasadena but I can get to it in 15 minutes and I like it so I’m including it.

The Fremont Centerer Theater is in its eighth year and is housed in a building constructed in the 1920’s to be a mortuary. None of the mortuary vibes are still around and the Fremont Centerer Theater in its intimate space of 78 seats is a very nice place to spend a night of live theater in almost Pasadena. Productions are varied but performances are always top notch and most of the actors come with extensive TV, movie, and theater credits. One of the missions of the theater is to encourage and develop young talent and it gives free reading of new plays.

There is a restaurant literally on the lawn of the theater where one may eat before or after. An intermission may be spent in a pleasant courtyard lighted by miniature Chinese lanterns.

Parking is free and is located directly behind the theater. A plus for the young and the old is a discount for seniors and students.

70 N Mentor Ave.
Pasadena, Ca. 91106
626 683 6883

This is Pasadena’s newest and most adventurous live theater. A production here always gives me a little flutter of excitement because I never know quite what to expect. Opened in 2003, almost all plays are world or West Coast premiers and the quality is very high. These plays will stretch your notions about what a play can be. The theater is dedicated to developing and encouraging new talent and they accomplish this with a flourish.

The theater is a small equity 99-seat space so all seats are good seats.

There is free parking behind the theater.

39 S. El Molino
Pasadena, Ca. 91101

The Pasadena Playhouse is the grand dame of live theater in Pasadena. It may not always be the best or the most adventurous theater but the minute you step onto the cobbled floor of the patio, you are surrounded by history. The Pasadena Playhouse was founded in 1917 and its current building, built especially for it, was opened in 1925. In 1937 it was declared the State Theater of California and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Sadly it closed in 1969 and was not opened again until 1986 when it was lovingly restored and brought up to current earthquake standards.

The main theater plays it very safe by offering mostly productions of Pulitzer and Tony prize plays. Some of these plays have not stood the test of time but all are well produced and acted. You can often see famous actors live at the Pasadena Playhouse. For example, Lawrence Fishburne and Angela Bassett are currently performing at the theater. The theater is smallish and there are no bad seats. Of all the theaters reviewed, the Pasadena Playhouse has the most facilitates for more elaborate productions.

The Pasadena Playhouse has a second, smaller theater where the work of emerging playwrights is presented and the Playhouse is dedicated to the development of new talent.

There is a small paid parking lot directly across the street from the theater and a larger paid parking lot behind the theater.

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