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The Theatrical Diversity Project was organized in 2005 to support The Pasadena Playhouse’s vision to build a legacy of artistic and theatrical diversity.
Embracing diversity at the Pasadena Playhouse goes beyond promoting tolerance; it is about exploring and celebrating the human experience shared by people of all colors, genders, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, learning and physical abilities, and socioeconomic positions. This initiative:
- Gives priority to eclectic and dynamic productions featuring a diverse array of artists, actors, and playwrights. Our productions reflect the diverse richness that defines our community, while never forgetting that primary goal of theater: to entertain.
- Empowers and enriches young people of diverse ethnicities from disenfranchised communities through free student performances and arts education programs; and
- Cultivates writers, actors, directors and designers of all backgrounds through new play development, mainstage productions and outreach programs.
Donations to the Theatrical Diversity Project have supported productions of past shows such as Fences starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, Stormy Weather and Uptown Downtown, both starring the iconic performer Leslie Uggams, and most recently, Blues for an Alabama Sky and Intimate Apparel directed by Artistic Director, Sheldon Epps. It has supported access to free student matinees and arts education programs for thousands of children facing barriers to exposure to the arts. It has developed new works involving artists of color that have gone on to Broadway and beyond.
We are proud to share the following which represents recent highlights for the Project:
- In addition to the aforementioned shows, there have been many other productions developed at The Playhouse as part of its mission to develop and produce the work of artists of color, with several celebrating diversity through music. Two Tony nominated shows born on The Playhouse stage through the Diversity Project: 2009’s Baby It’s You! and 2006’s Sister Act, had successful Broadway runs. Ray Charles Live! A New Musical, debuted at The Playhouse in 2007, featuring Charles' greatest hits. TWIST - An American Musical, was an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic set in New Orleans on the eve of the Great Depression. TWIST tells the story of a young orphan boy born of a courageous white mother and an incredibly talented black father, who navigates the colorful and sometimes rough waters of street life and racial intolerance in his quest to find his family and to find love. The score for TWIST featured the musical pulse of New Orleans in the 1920’s and was highlighted by a tapestry of soaring ballads, hot jazz, blues, gospel and tap-infused dance.
- In 2013, The Playhouse hosted the sold out One Night With Ozomatli a special concert featuring this multiple GRAMMY Award-winning band with outreach to the Los Angeles and greater San Gabriel Valley Latino community.
- In 2013 the Playhouse created a youth talent showcase called Junior's Got Talent!, which grew from collaboration with education and community volunteers in the San Gabriel Valley Chinese community. It provides the Pasadena Playhouse a unique chance to expand the communities it serves by specifically outreaching to the regional Chinese community, while also opening up an exciting opportunity to all youth in our region.
- In 2011, the Board voted to make the Diversity Committee a formal committee, comprised of Board and non-Board members, dedicated to the Board’s long term commitment of bringing and maintaining diversity at The Playhouse. Beyond supporting the artistic and educational mission of the Project, the committee works to develop the diversity of the Board and organization itself.
- The Project has funded productions by minority and women playwrights through the HOTHOUSE at The Playhouse series to lead the way in new play development by helping emerging playwrights take their stories from page to stage. Many of The Playhouse’s most successful productions have emerged from the HOTHOUSE program, enjoying long production runs subsequent to Playhouse premieres, such as the following: Sleepless in Seattle – The Musical; One November Yankee; the Tony-nominated Sister Act (Broadway, London, and touring companies); Looped (Broadway). MFA students from nearby universities participate in this program through special sessions with the playwrights, and plans are underway to expand this relationship further with USC’s MFA playwriting program, known for its focus on diversity.
- An Outreach and Education Coordinator was hired in August 2011 thanks to generous funding from the Project. This position enables the following Theatrical Diversity Project education programs:
New Generations at The Playhouse: This program focuses on disenfranchised and economically and developmentally challenged youth to the theatre to see performances for free at the Playhouse. This program strives to reach over 2,000 young people annually, mentors and non-profit service agencies annually. Participants are largely first time theatre attendees and are students with socio-economic barriers to participation in the arts.
This program includes an added on-site educational component, and serves hundreds of children through partnerships with organizations such as Boys and Girls Club, Homeboy Industries, Boys to Men, local public school systems like Pasadena Unified School District. It’s Time for Kids, and Phoenix House.
Annual High School Theatre Festival: Students from local high schools gather at The Playhouse to share talent and expression in a non-competitive setting each year. In 2012, five public schools were represented, with plans to expand further in 2013.
In honor of its notable success in the area of diversity, in 2007 The James Irvine Foundation awarded Artistic Director, Sheldon Epps the prestigious Irvine Leadership Award. This award was also accompanied by a grant of $125,000 in support of The Playhouse’s diversity initiatives. In 2013 The Playhouse will expand its Theatrical Diversity Program, increasing youth served and growing HOTHOUSE.
For information on how you can help support The Pasadena Playhouse's mission of theatrical diversity, please contact The Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (626) 204-7383.
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