Ann Erdman’s Mystery History No. 22

Sep 30, 2013

Mystery History

Where are we?


And what’s happening?


In this circa 1957 photo, actors take a break from their classes at the Pasadena Playhouse.



It all began when Gilmore Brown had a vision for a community theater in 1917.

MH Playhouse Gilmore Brown

The Community Players offered performances in facilities throughout Pasadena. In 1924, the cornerstone was laid for the Pasadena Playhouse. This panoramic photo shows the ceremony. Notice the huge megaphone on the right. Vo-dee-oh-doh!

Mystery History

Four years later, Brown established the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts, famously known as The Star Factory. Students earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in acting, directing, production and more.

World premieres of plays by Eugene O’Neill, William Saroyan, Noel Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams helped cement the Pasadena Playhouse’s identity as one of the finest live theaters in the nation.

Here are two early photos of the interior (note the painters in the first one):

MH Playhouse Painting

Playhouse Theatre Interior A

From the 1930s to the 1960s, dozens of actors were discovered by Hollywood while they were students at the Pasadena Playhouse, including Eve Arden, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Raymond Burr, Robert Young, Sally Struthers, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, and many more.

In 1937, due to the fame it brought to California as the center for dramatic arts, the Pasadena Playhouse was named The State Theatre of California by unanimous vote of the legislature. The building itself has been designated as a historic landmark.



The College of Theater Arts closed in 1969, but the Playhouse lives on as a world-class theater that features plays and musicals, many of them bound for Broadway over the years, and still starring renowned actors.

A revival of Cole Porter’s Can-Can premiered at the Playhouse and and will debut on Broadway in Spring 2014.

Here it is on the Playhouse stage:



Many thanks to the Pasadena Playhouse and Pasadena Museum of History.

Copyright © 2013 Ann Erdman

webexAnn Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at



Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena