Gov. Brown restores $1 million in funding to Pasadena Playhouse

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Four months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown took back $1 million in funding promised to the Pasadena Playhouse as part of a budget-balancing move, sending the theater company scrambling for loans to pay for ongoing renovations to the 93-year-old building.

On Thursday, Brown restored the funding into his $124 billion general fund budget after local Democrats in the Assembly and Senate convinced the governor and the state Department of Finance that the take-away amounted to a broken promise.

“Essentially, the carpet got pulled out from under them,” said state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge. “I pressed upon the governor to make good on last year’s commitment. I’m very pleased the governor responded to that request.”

The playhouse spent about $400,000 on renovations on the basis the funding was approved, including knocking out walls to accommodate the staging of the play “God Looked Away” in February featuring Al Pacino and Judith Light, only to learn the funding was reversed, said Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena.

“It put the playhouse in a difficult position,” Holden said. “They had to take out loans to meet their opening schedule.”

The lobby had been ripped out the day the theater learned about Brown pulling back the money.

“We had taken loans from our board members and community members and we were uncertain we would be able to pay them back,” said Danny Feldman, producing artistic director.

“Now, we will be back on track with the full renovation plan,” Feldman said on Thursday. That will include much-needed updates to plumbing, electrical work and other infrastructure needs, he said.

Holden worked on getting the playhouse partial funding earlier this year so it could pay its loans. He also got the Assembly Democratic caucus to persuade the governor to restore all the funding in his 2017-18 May revised budget, he said.

A petition was signed by audience members and artists and sent to the governor, Feldman said, adding that Portantino helped direct the efforts in Sacramento.

As the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit projected in January narrowed to about $400 million, local legislators predicted Brown would put back funding for the playhouse and also $1 million he had promised toward building a proposed Armenian American Museum in Glendale.

“When revenues came in higher than the governor had anticipated, it was a foregone conclusion. He was going to restore the funding,” Holden said.

As excerpted from Pasadena Star News