The Pasadena Playhouse



Seeing Stars: the Schools of the Stars.

College of Theater Arts
39 South El Molino Avenue,
Pasadena, CA. / (626) 356-7529

The Pasadena Playhouse was a renowned school of acting as well as a legitimate theatre, giving students at its College of Theatre Arts first-hand experience on the stage. Founded in 1917, the school closed in 1969 - although it remains open as a theatre. In between, it was declared the "State Theatre of California" by unanimous vote of the state legislature. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s it was known as "Hollywood’s talent factory."

A surprising number of celebrated Hollywood actors were discovered as students at this small playhouse, including:

Dustin Hoffman ("The Graduate"), Gene Hackman ("Unforgiven"), Nick Nolte ("Down & Out in Beverly Hills"), William Holden ("Sunset Blvd"), Robert Preston ("The Music Man"), Randolph Scott ("Western Union"), Robert Young ("Father Knows Best," "Marcus Welby, M.D.") Victor Mature ("Samson & Delilah"), Eve Arden ("Our Miss Brooks" & "Grease"), Dana Andrews ("Laura"), Gig Young ("They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"), Charles Bronson ("Death Wish") and Eleanor Parker ("Scaramouche").

Most of these aspiring actors started at the Pasadena Playhouse when they were in their late teens or early twenties, and many were so poor at the time that they required a scholarship to pay the school's tuition. Gig Young worked as a car-hop in addition to his scholarship at the Playhouse. Victor Mature (19 at the time) lived in a tent (borrowed from the school) on a friend's property; he performed in over 100 plays at the Playhouse before he was finally discovered by Hal Roach.

William Holden was discovered here at age 20, while playing an 80-year-old man on stage.

Robert Preston did 42 plays over two years, before being discovered by Paramount at age 20.

Gloria Stuart ("Titanic") was discovered by Hollywood talent scouts at the Playhouse in 1931 while appearing in one of their smaller theaters.

Others were even more fortunate. Eleanor Parker was discovered at age 18 by a Warner Brothers agent while she was sitting in the audience of the Pasadena Playhouse, after just one semester at the school.

M*A*S*H's 'Klinger', Jamie Farr, paid his way through a year here by working at an army/navy store, and riding the bus to work each day.

Gene Hackman was an exception. He was 30 years old when he decided to take up acting. He and fellow student Dustin Hoffman were voted "Least Likely to Succeed"...

Getting there: The Playhouse is located on El Molino Avenue, one half block south of Colorado Boulevard. From the (northeast) end of the Pasadena Freeway, take Arroyo Seco north to Colorado Boulevard. Turn right (east) on Colorado, and go east (about three quarters of a mile) to El Molino Avenue. Turn right (south) on El Molino.

[For more information on this subject, you can access the Playhouse's official website at:]

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