Sheldon Epps has renewed his contract as artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse, and Elizabeth Doran will join him as its new executive director after nearly four years as managing director of the Actors' Gang in Culver City.
Epps has led the company since 1997 and helped see it through the 2010 financial crisis in which the playhouse closed for eight months, then emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After shedding more than $1 million in debt, it has regained its balance with two successful seasons, winning good reviews for four of the five plays staged in 2011-12.
"It was just about as strong a season as one could hope for," with all the shows exceeding their sales targets, said Epps, 58, who didn't disclose how long his new contract extends, other than that it's "multi-year."
He said he's glad that Doran, 39, who will be in charge of business operations, "is going to have the opportunity to walk into a theater that is far more stable" than her predecessor, veteran theater manager and producer Stephen Eich, encountered when he arrived in 2009. The playhouse never had been able to retire debts incurred in the mid-1990s.
Epps said that he and Doran "will have the opportunity, together with the board, to focus on growth and perhaps dreaming bigger dreams" — possibly including laying groundwork for a campaign to buy and renovate the historic 1925 theater and the six-story building behind it, which Epps envisions as an arts center with offices and rehearsal spaces for a number of organizations.
That, he acknowledged, might require some significant and hard-to-come-by funding from the city government, which doesn't own the building but controls the 684-seat auditorium and provides it to the playhouse rent-free. "If you're an artist, you've got to be a dreamer, so why not?" Epps said.