The Pasadena Playhouse is a historic performing arts venue located 39 S El Molino Avenue in Pasadena, California. The 686-seat auditorium produces a variety of cultural and artistic events, professional shows, and community engagements each year.
Beginning around 1912, the period known as the Little Theatre Movement developed in cities and towns across the United States. The artistic community that founded the Pasadena Playhouse was started in 1916 when actor-director Gilmor Brown began producing a series of plays at a renovated burlesque theatre with his troupe "The Gilmore Brown Players". Brown established the Community Playhouse Association of Pasadena in 1917 that would later become the Pasadena Playhouse Association, which necessitated a new venue for productions.
The community theatre organization quickly grew and in May 1924, the citizens of Pasadena raised funds to build a new theatre in the city center at 39 South El Molino Avenue. Completed in 1925, the theater was designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style by Pasadena artist and architect Elmer Grey, with a fire curtain painted by Pasadena artist Alson S. Clark.
Its non-professional, community beginnings and the tremendous amount of local support for the project led George Bernard Shaw to dub Pasadena "the Athens of the West", likening the enterprise to the ancient Festival Dionysia.
The building that was designed by Grey and built by the Winter Construction Co. drew the attention of the nation, bringing Southern California world premieres by authors such as Eugene O'Neill, William Saroyan, Noël Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams, as well as many English language premieres of significant Continental dramas.