The Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theatre of California, has appointed Sheldon Epps as its artistic director and continues its 1997-98 summer/fall season Sept. 12 with Jo Anne Worley in Moon Over Buffalo.
Don Shirley of the Los Angeles Times reported that Epps will be the first artistic director in five years at the Playhouse, as executive director Lars Hansen made most of the artistic and business decisions in recent years. More noteworthy, Shirley reported, is the fact that African-American Epps is the first non-white to hold that title at any of Southern California's professional, larger-than-mid-sized theater companies.
"Sheldon brings with him strong associations with some of the nation's leading artistic talent. Part of his responsibilities will include developing even stronger relationships with actors, designers and playwrights. I'm confident he'll prove to be an invaluable member of this institution," Hansen said in a press release.
Epps recently served as associate artistic director at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre and last season directed Mr. Ricky Calls a Meeting at the Playhouse. This year on Broadway, he directed and conceived the short lived Duke Ellington musical Play On!, based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and originally produced at the Old Globe. On Broadway he previously directed and conceived the musical Blues in the Night, which was done at the Playhouse in 1995. He has directed numerous plays and musicals at regional theatres across the country and for television he has directed episodes of "Evening Shade" and "Sister, Sister."
Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo follows a faded husband-and-wife acting team as they try to hang onto their dignity when their careers seem destined to head down the drain. Former "Laugh-In" star Worley, who also appeared on Broadway in Grease!, stars in the comedy, which runs through Oct. 26. The summer/fall seasons ends with Anne Meara's comedy After Play. Running Nov. 7 - Dec. 21, After-Play follows four old friends as they share a New York evening of dinner, theater and memories. The 1998 Winter/Spring season opens with Epps directing Tom Stoppard's Tony Award-winning The Real Thing, a play he directed last season at the Old Globe. This backstage comedy examines a famous playwright and his wife as she attempts to merge "worthy cause" with her art as an actress. The Real Thing, revealing the complexities of marriage and the breathtaking suddenness of betrayal, runs Jan. 9 - Feb. 22.
David Galligan will direct Blame It On The Movies (The Reel Music of Hollywood), a musical revue he conceived with Ron Abel and Billy Barnes, March 13 - April 26. Barnes wrote original music and lyrics for the musical homage to Hollywood, which also includes songs like "As Time Goes By," "I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo" and "The Way We Were."
Epps closes the season May 8- June 21, directing John Henry Redwood's The Old Settler, the Playhouse's first production of a non-musical play written by an African-American. "Every theatre in every city should reflect and serve the entirety of the community in which it's located," Epps told the L.A. Times, "More and more, major American cities are colorful. The work on the stage has to represent all of those colors."
The Old Settler looks at two middle-aged sisters who take in a young male boarder in 1940's Harlem. "I don't recommend material because it's black," Epps emphasized. "'The Old Settler' is wonderfully moving, beautifully written. The characters' emotions are without color. At the same time, because the characters are black, it can appeal to people of color, because they like to see people like themselves on stage." Epps is discussing The Old Settler as a co-production with the Old Globe and is also talking to Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Times reported.
Subscriptions and tickets to all the Pasadena Playhouse productions are available by calling (626) 356-7529.
--By Laura MacDonald