At Parson’s Nose Theater, the Classics Take Center Stage

Parson’s Nose Theater makes “intimidating” theater accessible.
Photos: Courtesy of Parson’s Nose Theater

Founded by Lance Davis and Mary Chalon, Parson’s Nose Theater has carved out a unique space in the Pasadena theater scene. Throughout his acting career, Davis ran into fellow thespians who were unfamiliar with the classics that laid the foundation of their craft. Not for lack of interest—most were fearful they wouldn’t understand the opaque plots and archaic language of writers like Carlo Goldoni or Molière. Determined to change this and armed with a passion for classic theater, Davis and Chalon started Parson’s Nose Theater in 2000.

“We know these plays are wonderful,” Davis explains. “They’re great and people should know them and shouldn’t be intimidated by them, so let’s just address all these things that people say: they’re too long, the language is too difficult, the names are too strange, the comedy’s not funny, and we don’t understand them.”

With a deft hand, Davis condenses the plays to keep run times within 90 minutes, all while ensuring the themes, characters and beautiful language that made them classics still take center stage. More than simply summarizing the plays, Davis finds the elements that resonated when they were originally performed and carefully retunes them for today’s audiences.

Photos: Courtesy of Parson’s Nose Theater

In its earlier years, the nomadic company bounced from stage to stage, but in 2016, Parson’s Nose Theater finally found a permanent home in a historic chapel on Holly Street. Built in 1922, the structure required significant work before the curtains rose on opening night, including $100,000 worth of renovations. Davis and Chalon were careful to preserve the unique elements of the space, including the exposed wooden beams, high ceilings, and the large stained glass window overlooking the stage.

The duo’s ability to restore things, while maintaining that which made them worth restoring, has given Pasadena an intimate and welcoming space to discover classical theater.

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