Legend of the Sierra Madre Playhouse

A classic old theater shines as a theatrical center in the foothills.
Image courtesy of Sierra Madre Playhouse

The Sierra Madre Playhouse has been a part of the foothill community’s main street since 1910, first as the Bergien Brothers furniture store, and in 1923, giving way to the movies and a new Art Deco façade to become the Wistaria Theatre for silent movies. After the Great Depression, it resumed showing first run movies until the multiplex theaters made the local movie house obsolete.

Concerned residents and a local theater troupe brought the venue back to life and gave it a new start as it approached 100 years on the boulevard. Since 2014, under the leadership of artistic director Christian Lebano, Sierra Madre Playhouse has been producing work with Equity cast members and some of Los Angeles’ top theatrical designers. The theater has received recognition from a number of notable institutions including Ovation, NAACP, and BroadwayWorld awards, along with L.A. Times Critic’s Choice.

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Fan favorites have included the holiday classic A Christmas Story, Always…Patsy Cline, The Joy Luck Club, The Immigrant, The Gin Game, and many others. A mission to put all the staged work in context for further study has made the lobby exhibits a regular part of any visit to a show. In addition, the “Off the Page” reading series and “Off the Screen” film series complement the current stage productions.

The Sierra Madre Playhouse places its educational programming at the core of its mission. The annual Theatre for Young Audience series has welcomed nearly 10,000 students from 11 school districts since 2014. For many youngsters, this is the first play they’ve ever seen. It is also home to the AKT Academy, specializing in youth acting classes under the guidance of Alison Kalmus.

Upcoming 2020 shows include King of the Yees, Silent Sky, and A Christmas Story (based on the film and stories by Jean Shepherd).

For more information, visit sierramadreplayhouse.org.


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