The Pasadena Playhouse Blog

L.A. Times names CASA VALENTINA a Critics’ Choice!

Casa Valentina L.A. Times



Mahaffey, Valerie b&w photo1. What was your first Pasadena Playhouse production? 

My first production at Pasadena Playhouse was Carnal Knowledge by Jules Feiffer. I think that it had been done as a movie first and we were the first to do it as an actual play. I may be wrong but that’s how I remember it.

2. Can you tell us a little about the the role you play as “Rita” in Casa Valentina?

I am not very good at talking about a role that I’m currently playing. If I talk too much about it, it puts me in my head instead of my heart, which is where she lives. But I can tell you that I love playing Rita. I love her. I think she’s a good woman and I think she is trying her best to make life go smoothly for all the people around her that she adores, her friends and her husband.

3. We read that you were born in Sumatra, Indonesia. Do you have a childhood memory of growing up there, or have you been back to visit? 

Yes, I was born and raised in Indonesia until I was 11 years old. It is a beautiful country with the most gentle, wonderful people. I have been back since I was a child, but I am too sad to go back again because the lady who was a second mother to me has passed away and I can’t bear to be there without her. That may change someday; I’d love for my daughter to see my birth country.

4. Have you ever been star-struck, and can you share your experience?

I have been star-struck in an incapacitating way perhaps only twice. Once was when I was working with Carol Burnett playing her daughter. “Oh my gosh, this is Carol Burnett!” I got over it quickly, though. I did, however, practice throwing a drink in the face of a statue before I threw it into Carol’s face. She is so nice and- as the world knows- so talented. It was wonderful to be rehearsing this play in the small theater upstairs that is named in honor of her daughter, Carrie Hamilton. The other time I was star-struck was very recently. Clint Eastwood hired me off of the taped audition for his new movie about Sullenberger, who landed the plane on the Hudson. I first met him before my first shot in the movie on the actual Hudson River. I turned around, and there he was- smiling at me, holding out his hand to shake my hand. I just about froze in amazement. He is so iconic; I was flummoxed for a second. Then I smiled and got down to work with him.

5. Last week Christian Clemenson discussed how he feels about his Emmy award. Can you tell us how it feels to have an Emmy?

It does feel wonderful to have an Emmy. That cliche thing people say about being rewarded by your peers is quite true. For all those actors out there who decided that that piece of work is very good- it just makes you happy.

6. You have played a lot of characters over the years. Which characters have you found to be the most personally relatable? Which characters were the most challenging to portray?

I’ll give you surprisingly challenging first. I played Juliet twice when I was a young woman, and it was like I would have a good scene that night- and then it was so hard to get another scene right. It was like, “Aaaaaah, it was good last night…” but, it was so wonderful to play her.

I don’t know what has been fun, I usually have a pretty good time with anything I do, some of course more fun than others. And not necessarily “ha ha” fun, but, you know, rewarding.

And then personally relatable, I don’t know. I really don’t know. Because you always put yourself in it; you can only go by how you feel. I do remember my mother, at one point, being very upset, and saying, “Why do they always make you be a crazy person?” Because I get cast as a crazy person a lot. I said, “I don’t know, Mom. I guess that’s in me.”

7. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?

One of my very best friends is the actor Tom Hulce. And we had the great good fortune of being cast together a lot. He was my second Romeo, and he did three other plays, and now he’s a producer On Broadway and Off Broadway. He hired me to do a play in New York a while ago. He is one of the best people on the planet.

Another best person on the planet is David Hyde Pierce. I love working with David.

I’m trying to think. My husband, Joseph Kell. I met him doing a play. He’s one of the most talented, great people. Of course, when you’re married to someone you find their flaws, but, he’s found mine as well.

8. What is your favorite play? 

I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know.

9. What is your favorite musical?

I don’t know either. One that springs to mind is not my favorite, but it’s my husband’s favorite, I think, and that was Jesus Christ Superstar. The rock musical is so…if you listen to that thing-beautiful!

10. Why should people see Casa Valentina

Because it’s so unusual. The subject matter was completely unknown to me before this. I don’t know that you’ll go away understanding anything more than when you came into the theatre, but you’ll get a glimpse into some wonderful people’s lives that you hadn’t considered before.

Also, the play is funnier than I realized, and also sadder than I realized. It’s got something for every end of the spectrum of emotion.


NV150x150-2Save $5 on Nonmember Tickets!
Use Code: PPH5*
Through March 20, 2016

Native Voices Presents: They Don’t Talk Back
By Frank Henry Kaash Katasse
Directed by Randy Reinholz

Native Voices presents the world premiere of Frank Henry Kaash Katasse’s They Don’t Talk Back in association with La Jolla Playhouse and Perseverance Theatre. In this new play, a troubled teen from a broken home receives the culture shock of a lifetime when he is sent to live and work with his Tlingit grandparents in a remote fishing village in Alaska. This funny, heartfelt exploration of the meaning of family and life emerges in a contemporary coming-of-age story.

Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 323.495.4354.

Native Voices at the Autry
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027

*Code PPH5 is valid for $5 off tickets to THEY DON’T TALK BACK. Offer expires March 20, 2016 and is good on all remaining performances. Discount is available on Nonmember tickets. Offer not valid on previous purchases and cannot be combined with any other offer. All tickets are subject to availability.


MenopauseArticle“I can relate to the Cymbalta commercials,” Sandra Tsing Loh told ABC News. “The woman is staring out the window blinking because the light is too bright. She looks like she could put a gun to her head in a tedious walk through the park. She can’t get out of bed and enjoy, ‘the simple daily pleasures.’”

In a recent interview with ABC News concerning her memoir titled, “The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones,” which the upcoming show is based on, Loh discusses menopause, the inspiration behind writing her book, and her elderly Chinese immigrant father.

To read the interview, click here.

For tickets and more information, click here.

Luminario Ballet Presents: LedZAerial 10th Anniversary, 2006 – 2016

Performance mag ad copy

Ballet and aerial to the music of Led Zeppelin
General: $25

VIP Booth Seating: $40

Special Guest Star performer and choreographer Dreya Weber!

Special Guest Musical Director Dr. A Phoenix Delgado will conduct a classical quintet playing Led Zeppelin.
Luminario Ballet will perform several of your favorite Led Zeppelin songs to the original tracks, and also Kashmir, recorded by LedZAerial musicians in 2006* *Robin Finck, Ana Lenchantin, Paz Lenchantin, Martin St Pierre, Tim Alexander and Jeffrey Brown*

LedZAerial choreography by: Judith FLEX Helle, Bianca Sapetto, Dreya Weber, Russ Stark

Located at Faisdodo, 5253 West Adams Bl, Los Angeles, CA 90016.

General: $25     VIP booth seating $40

Purchase tickets on our website:

Special 3 course Prix Fixe dinner at Faisdodo Cafe Club 5257 West Adams Blvd.  7-8 pm before the show. $25 per person. Call 323-931-4636 for reservation.



This week’s Ambassador Spotlight is Lenore Bond Almanzar.

Driving by the Pasadena Playhouse after it was boarded up in 1969, Lenore Almanzar told herself, “If it ever reopens, I will do my best to see that it stays that way.” In 1979, she responded to a small notice in the paper requesting assistance with the reopening of the Playhouse. That was the beginning of the Friends and Lenore’s 37 years of volunteer service as Friend, President of the Friends, and Ambassador, as well as Front of House Manager since the 1980’s.

Lenore graduated from The Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts in 1954. She married a fellow student and upon graduation set off on tour. She has many, many stories of her life in the theatre, including a New York play where all the checks bounced on New Years eve, and acting in The Star Creatures. Playhouse students played most of the roles, made costumes and built sets for this ‘50’s monster movie which was only topped that year by The Killer Tomatoes!

As Front of House Manager, Lenore continues to be the warm and reassuring presence that patrons greet when they first walk into the front lobby. Thank you, Lenore!


Christian Clemenson

Q: Tell us about your experience at The Playhouse so far.

A: I’ve enjoyed working at The Playhouse tremendously. I love the history of the place, the building itself is beautiful. The people are warm and friendly. And Pasadena is a wonderful place to spend my days and evenings. Everything has been great so far.


Q: How would you describe the differences between working/acting in theater, film, and television?

A: Television is a fast, instinctive process. You must show up ready to work and with some ideas. You have to be willing to dive in to the deep end with alacrity.

Theater is a slower and perhaps deeper process. There is time for exploration and discussion and experimentation.

They’re both collaborative arts but on the stage, the actor has to create the drama every night. With television, you do it once, and then an editor can piece it together as she likes and create something new out of your original work. In theater, I have more a sense of ‘ownership’ of and responsibility for my performance. And I like that.


Q: What is your favorite part about working in theater?

A: The camaraderie. The esprit de corp. And of course the magic that happens between live actors and an audience.


Q: We read that you starred in and directed local theater plays at Humboldt’s Castle Theatre. How has directing influenced the way you approach acting?

A: Oh, dear. I was a child when I did that back in my hometown. I’m definitely NOT a director — I’ve learned that much in all these years! I do my best NOT to think as a director when I act.


Q: What is it like to have an Emmy Award?

A: It’s an odd, wonderful thing. I don’t act to win awards, but knowing that your work moved your peers in some way is compelling and gratifying. Most of the time, I don’t think about it at all. But then I’ll catch sight of that big, shiny, gold-plated winged thing and remember, ‘oh, right. I won that.’ It still makes me smile.


Q: How do you transition between such diverse characters, like your current role on the hit “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and your role as Charlotte/Isadore in Casa Valentina?

A: I’m a character actor. Going from a 1990’s conservative DA to a 1960’s transvestite organizer is a bit of a leap, but it is exactly that sort of leap that made me want to be an actor. I love playing people at the extreme edges. I love finding humanity in all of them.


Q: Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?

James Spader in “Boston Legal.” We’ve been friends since high school. It’s an amazingly rich experience to act in scenes with your best friend.


Q: What is your favorite play?

A: Three Sisters. I’ve been in it twice and would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s the play that made me realize acting can be a serious, fulfilling art.


Q: What is your favorite musical?

A Little Night Music. Romantic, cynical, and wise. And all that gorgeous music!


Q: Why should people see Casa Valentina?

A: It’s a fascinating play. And this production and cast are excellent. It reminds me most of Fierstein’s earlier plays like Torch Song. It’s funny but with an edge. And it delves deep. I promise that it will make you think in new ways about gender expression and conformity. And how being true to ourselves can have serious costs.

Click here for tickets and more information.



This week’s Patron Spotlight features Kathleen Hunter and her son Nathaniel Hunter. They recently attended a performance of Fly. Nathaniel saw an announcement for the show when he saw Peter Pan and Tinker Bell at The Playhouse. In fact, he was so excited for Fly that he wanted to dress accordingly.

“I went to the show because I am a huge fan of Tuskegee Airmen. I think that the tap dancing is the best tap dancing that I will ever see. The actors were fabulous! I thought the show was great! It was a serious story. It was like the real life of the Tuskegee Airmen. It was the best show that I have ever seen!” exclaimed Nathaniel.

“My son was thrilled to attend Fly. It meant a lot to me as a parent to know that my son’s heroes are portrayed in a beautiful and moving production,” said Kathleen.

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The Pasadena Playhouse’s Mi Historia, Mi Manera invites you to join us for a brand new community-devised and site-specific Forum Play set on an old Victorian home entitled Lottery Loteria  created by Pasadena District 5 Community Members and performed at a neighborhood block party on Saturday, February 27, 2016. The day long block party will take place between 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 27 at Summit Avenue between Villa and Maple Streets with two scheduled performances at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Free admission! This block party will also feature free giveaways for the first 650 people, food trucks, with special lower priced offerings ($5 combo’s), free activities & art workshops by Light Bringer Project and Armory Center for the Arts, photo booth, poetry and music stage, cupcakes by Viva Los Cupcakes, and a DJ!

Our Mi Historia, Mi Manera initiative aims to increase arts participation in the San Gabriel Valley, and is supported by generous grants from The James Irvine Foundation and Theatre Communications Group.


Tuskegee Airmen including Rusty Burnes with the Fly cast and creative. Photo: Earl Gibson III

This week’s Patron Spotlight features Rusty Burnes, an original Tuskegee Airman, Fighter Piolet-99th Fighter Squadron.

“The theatrical production of Trey Ellis’s Fly was a thoroughly enjoyable dramatization of an experience I lived as an original Tuskegee Airman. With surprising insight, pathos and humor, it portrayed the historical struggles experienced by those of us who set out to demonstrate, to ourselves and a somewhat hostile military complex, our ability to function in all areas of military service, including and especially as combat pilots. I was particularly impressed by the staging and direction of Fly, which succeeded in dramatizing the experience of piloting the aircraft we flew, and did so without the aid of the aircraft or set cues to suggest them. It was all left to our imagination. My congratulations to Trey Ellis, director Ricardo Khan, the talented cast and to The Pasadena Playhouse for mounting this fine production.”

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