Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Playhouse History - The Playbox

Even after founding two theatres, at least three companies, a college, and operating as many as four stages simultaneously, Pasadena Playhouse founder Gilmor Brown still didn't feel he had enough outlets for his extraordinary creative energy. Thus, after the Playhouse and College of Theatre Arts were open, he converted his living room into an experimental theatre workshop. There he staged his own productions of whatever interested him, one a week, and nearly every night brought a small crowd of subscribers into his home. This theatre, known as the Playbox, was one of the very first experiments with what we know today as "theatre in the round." This close and personal presentational style was inspired by the philosophy of Emile Zola and the still fresh dramatic writings of Ibsen and Checkov. Over the years, it became known as one of the most adventurous little producing organizations in the country, and with its rapid stagings was able to deliver literally hundreds of world-premieres.

The historical significance of this theatre is discussed at length (208 pages of it) in a dissertation by Dr. Roger Altenberg of USC. Thanks to the efforts of his son, Dr. Lee Altenberg, this document is now available in its entirety online at the following address: http://dynamics.org/Altenberg/ROGER/THESIS/ . It'll also pop up as the first result if you Google "Fair Oaks Playbox" and the Playhouse keeps a hard copy here in our archives if anyone is interested in perusing it. Email Penn Genthner at pgenthner@pasadenaplayhouse.org if you'd like to make an appointment.

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