The Pasadena Playhouse…Revolutionized

by Seema Sueko and Victor Vazquez

in Audience (R)Evolution

Consensus (Collage includes photos by Melissa Kobe, Melly Lee and The Pasadena Playhouse. This post is a part of the Audience (R)Evolution grant program and blog salon.)

While TCG’s grant is called Audience (R)Evolution, perhaps implying that the audience is transformed, in truth not only did this grant help us achieve that but it revolutionized The Pasadena Playhouse as an organization.


Trough our initiative Mi Historia, Mi Manera, The Pasadena Playhouse set out to increase arts participation for Latino adults in the vast San Gabriel Valley, which spans 200 square miles in size. The goal was to reimagine the Theatrical Diversity Project and build a new model of artistic co-creation between The Playhouse, Latino artists, and Latino community members through the creation of an engaged Latino Community Task Force, outreach programming, and artistic mentorship outside The Playhouse walls. The ultimate result was indeed revolutionary, not because The Playhouse entered new robust partnerships inviting 1,031 new community members at our array of events, workshops, devised plays and staged readings, of which 78% identified as Latino, but because these 1,031 neighbors ultimately affected the The Pasadena Playhouse season and have now demonstrated how they can help support the art on our stage and how the art supports their respective interests.


The applied methodology for The Playhouse’s Audience (R)Evolution project is titled Consensus Organizing for Theatre* (CO) which is a process where a theatre builds stake in multiple pockets of the community while those from the community also build a stake in the theatre. To learn more about Consensus Organizing for Theatre click here to visit our previous blog post.


Through CO our project has evolved in a much more authentic way which is now having longer impact for us and the San Gabriel Valley community. Our original application envisioned six community engagement events with one large showcase in collaboration with our Latino Task Force. The focus of our initially proposed project remains on the Latino community, but these goals certainly evolved. Through our Consensus Organizing for Theatre methodology we co-created with our community partners projects and programs that were customized per their interests and demands. These community partners included Pasadena City College and its exhibition Jaime Escalante: A Life Con Ganas!, La Puente Artwalk, LURN (Leadership for Urban Renewal Network), ImaginAction and a devised Forum Play, and the multi-genre, multi-cultural Grammy award winning band Ozomatli. These collaboratives resulted in robust and diverse events throughout San Gabriel Valley, which included:


  • 17 co-created ImaginAction workshops:
    • 6 introductory theatre workshops at 5 locations in the San Gabriel Valley
    • 5 improv theatre workshops
    • 6 rehearsal theatre workshops
  • 3 Ozomatli play commission workshops
  • 4 devised Forum Play touring presentations at 4 different community centers, serving 229 individuals
  • 1 professional staged reading of Stand and Deliver at Pasadena City College, serving 270 individuals
  • 1 professional staged reading of Kita y Fernanda at city of La Puente, serving 71 individuals
  • 4 in-person all Latino Task Force meetings
  • 8 monthly communication newsletters to 43 Task Force Individuals
  • 1 workshop with The Advancement Project with 6 gang interventionists
  • 1 workshop with IMPACT Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center with 23 women


During the projects, we repeatedly heard from the community that they were thrilled to have us out in the San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods but they also expressed a desire to be represented on our main stage. This feedback really transformed us. As a direct result, we are producing Real Women Have Curves, by leading Latina playwright Josefina Lopez to kick off our 2015-2016 season on our main stage in September. We will cradle this production with Consensus Organizing for Theatre activities into both artistic and institutional operations to invite, welcome, and celebrate diverse audiences. This is the first time The Pasadena Playhouse has produced a play with leading Latin@ characters in 10 years.


In turn, we are extremely excited about the following long term impacts.

  • As a result of our deep collaboration with the organization ImaginAction so many other community organizations want to bring in this process to their institutions, such as Altadena Public Library, Pasadena City College, La Puente, and Pasadena Chap Care Medical Services. They now see the value that theatre can play in serving their communities, goals and organization’s interests.
  • With Pasadena City College we are seeing continued growth and a deepening relationship through our two legacy institutions. PCC is already purchasing 450 tickets for this seasons’productions of Real Women Have Curves and Fly. They also provided us with free rehearsal space for two productions last season. We will continue to articulate how both organizations can continue to serve our communities more effectively together.
  • The collaboration with four La Puente organizers helped us create an opportunity for a local La Puente based artist to create a public art installation inspired by the content and themes in the staged reading of Kita y Fernanda, a play by Tanya Saracho. This public art installation was featured on the evening of the staged reading, and it has now instigated a conversation in City Hall about creating an ad hoc Public Art Committee that will work to recommend policies and procedures for an Art in Public Places Program. Our Community Organizer, Victor Vazquez will continue to facilitate this conversation with the La Puente mayor, council members and the city manager to help nurture the development of a long term program in the city of La Puente.


There are some who think that diversifying audiences and community engagement doesn’t impact the bottom line. Our Mi Historia, Mi Manera task force has evolved into a powerful cohort of dedicated, enthusiastic and diverse individuals who are now meeting weekly in a rally style campaign to support the success of Real Women Have Curves. So far, this group has already helped sell nearly 2,000 tickets to new audiences for the play with a revenue close to $50,000.

Our Audience (R)Evolution project is no longer “a project” of The Pasadena Playhouse. It’s our core.

thumbnail 1- VazquezVictor Vazquez serves as Community Organizer in the Artistic Department at The Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, CA. He is a writer, and a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices fellow, and a LAMBDA Literary Emerging LGBT Voices fellow. As a playwright, he holds two commissions for 24th Street Theatre, and one with Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival. He is a recipient of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund McNamara Creative Arts Grant in which he created the Santa Ana Institute of Sound, a pilot music and arts program for Santa Ana public high school students to explore new technologies in music. He has worked at Center Theatre Group as a Program Associate in Education and Community Partnerships, and as a Co-Company Manager for Cornerstone Theatre Company’s Summer Institute (i7, Pacoima). He lives in Los Angeles.

San Diego, CA, USA. Friday, December 07, 2012._ Portraits of Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Mo`olelo Theatre, Seema Sueko.  PHOTOS BY CRISSY PASCUAL/©2012 INFINITE MEDIA WORKSSeema Sueko serves as associate artistic director of The Pasadena Playhouse. For the past nine years, she served as the executive artistic director of Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego. In addition to directing at Mo`olelo, Seema developed Mo`olelo’s greening initiative, consensus organizing methodologies, and led the company to its selection as the Inaugural Resident Theatre Company at La Jolla Playhouse and awards from the American Theatre Wing, National Endowment for the Arts, Actors’ Equity Association, NAACP San Diego Branch, among others. Other directing and acting credits include The Old Globe, Yale Rep, 5th AvenueTheatre, Indiana Rep, San Diego Rep, Native Voices. She was the recipient of the inaugural TCG/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation “Leadership U[niversity]” grant, which took her to Arena Stage in 2013 as a Visiting Artistic Associate in mentorship with Molly Smith.


Consensus Organizing for Theatre (Theater) is licensed by Seema Sueko under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


Audience (R)Evolution is a four-stage program to study, promote and support successful audience  engagement and community development models across the country. The Audience (R)Evolution grant program was designed by TCG and is funded by Doris Duke.

  • Philip Graulty

    This is community engagement at its finest! Congratulations!