Two years ago, the future of the Pasadena Playhouse was very much in doubt. Weighed down by $2.3 million in debt, the 686-seat Los Angeles-area theater was forced to close briefly in February 2010 due to financial hardships and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a few months later.
Soon after, though, the Playhouse, which was created in 1917, received an anonymous $1 million donation that saved the organization from ruin. The identity of this generous donor was kept secret, though, until now.
Mike Stoller, half of the songwriting team Leiber & Stoller, and his wife, Corky Hale Stoller, made the donation that allowed the Playhouse to escape bankruptcy, the theater announced Jan. 23. The couple joined the Playhouse’s board in 2010 after their donation was made.
“Although I had met with [Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director] Sheldon Epps on professional matters several years ago, it was only through reading that this wonderful theater was to close after 93 years that we decided we couldn’t let that happen,” Mike Stoller said in a statement.
With his late partner Jerry Leiber, Stoller wrote unforgettable tunes like “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand By Me.” The Grammy Award-winning duo are members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Corky Hale Stoller is also musically inclined, having worked as a singer, pianist, and harpist who performed with the likes of Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra.
“Mike and Corky's tremendous gift to the Playhouse has incredible meaning to me in profound personal and professional ways,” Epps said in a statement. “Without doubt, it inspired others to come forward to match their donation at a vitally important time.”
As Backstage reported last year, the Playhouse emerged from bankruptcy and, with the help of another $1 million from various donors, has been able to keep its doors open, even expanding its seasonal offerings. But that doesn’t mean the fundraising will end.
“The possible loss of a valuable theater, that woke people up,” Epps told Backstage in September. “It made it clear that if people don't really support the theater, there's the potential for it to go away.”