ABOUT USOur mission
The Sierra Madre Playhouse is a nonprofit, award-winning 99-seat theater dedicated to illuminating the American experience through high-quality productions by acclaimed and emerging playwrights. With century-old ties to our community, we are committed to engaging diverse local and regional audiences and inspiring the next generation of artists and theater lovers.
Artistic Director: Christian Lebano
Managing Director: Estelle Campbell
Board of Directors
Joan Riback, President
David Gordon, Secretary
Louise Calaway, Treasurer
Vanessa Silberman, Marketing Chair
The Sierra Madre Playhouse has evolved from a theatrical heritage that stretches back to the days when Sierra Madre was just a tiny village. Residents presented dramas and musicals as early as the 1880s in their homes, in the Town Hall, and in the Woman's Club.
In 1923, the structure presently housing the Sierra Madre Playhouse was built and was known as the “Wistaria Theater" (Sierra Madre is home to the largest wistaria vine in the world) until 1929, when it became the “Sierra Madre Theater.” During the ensuing years, the theater served as the focal point for the city's family entertainment options, whether as a movie house, an arcade, or most recently, a theatre.
When Charles Andrese and Cheryl Pertile founded a new Arcadia theatrical operation in 1980, it was initially called the "Playback Players" to reflect their intention to specialize in some of the older, classic plays. When they moved to the present location later that year, their premiere Sierra Madre production was "Moby Dick-Rehearsed," written by Orson Welles. Since this was hardly an "old classic," the group renamed itself the "Sierra Madre Playhouse." Soon, Stan Zalas came to the Playhouse as artistic director. He and Andrese, who became general manager, built a solid reputation for providing quality, family-friendly entertainment.
To support the theater, a small group of dedicated local citizens spearheaded a campaign in 1995 to assist the Playhouse, with George Enyedi and Lee and Barbara Cline playing lead roles. The Playhouse reorganized and became a nonprofit organiazation as it remains to this day.
In 2012, Christian Lebano became the Artistic Director of Sierra Madre Playhouse, embarking the theater on an exciting new chapter with a focus on theater by American playrights and launching the Theater for Young Audiences program.
Under Lebano's tenure, the Sierra Madre Playhouse has become a critically-acclaimed presenter of American theater, and has been recognized with Ovation Awards, NAACP Awards and foundation grants.
Three highlights have occurred in the recent history of The Playhouse: a centennial, a renovation, and a financial coup. The 100th production was marked with a lavish centenary weekend in March 1993. A parade along Sierra Madre Boulevard was led by the mythical Sierra Madre College Band and an entourage of vintage cars bearing the cast of "Dames at Sea" and special guests. The vintage autos provided photo ops for patrons who added dazzle by arriving garbed in seagoing attire circa 1930, or black tie.
Then in 1998 an extensive renovation of the theater was under-written by donations from many friends of the Sierra Madre Playhouse. Numerous improvements in lighting, sound, and decor updated the venue. New hardwood floors in the widened foyer, recessed lighting, new carpeting, and fresh paint created an attractive ambience. But to patrons, the most appreciated improvements probably were the plush, deep-red auditorium seats. No longer did people bring along their own cushions to make sitting through plays more comfortable!
The third landmark moment came in 2000, with a champagne opening and ribbon cutting to celebrate the collection of the full down payment toward purchase of the building. This, too, was accomplished through the support of loyal friends of the Sierra Madre Playhouse who raised more than $47,000. Efforts to completely pay off the debt continue.
Sierra Madre Playhouse has attracted both union and non-union actors of the finest caliber. The SMP can even boast a one-time performance in the 1982-83 season by Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, who filled in for a friend in Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park."
Recent productions include the critically acclaimed “Deathtrap” (Ovation Award), “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” (Ovation Award), “Bee-luther Hatchee,” “A Wrinkle in Time” “The Belle of Amherst," "A Christmas Carol," "Always...Patsy Cline," and "Driving Miss Daisy".
Many of Neil Simon's and Agatha Christie's successes have been produced at the Playhouse. A few plays have enjoyed return engagements through the years. Weightier scripts include "The Madwoman of Chaillot," "Rashoman," "The Lion in Winter," "The Miracle Worker," "Steel Magnolias," "Caine Mutiny Court Martial," "All My Sons," "The Member of the Wedding," "The Innocents," and "Golden Boy."
"Oliver," "Dames At Sea," "The Fantasticks," "Sound of Music," "Spitfire Grill," "Putting it Together" and "Side by Side by Sondheim," and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" are among the musicals which have been offered. Favorites at the holiday season are "Scrooge" and various versions of "A Christmas Carol."