Platinum Anniversary

Boston Court Pasadena artistic director Jessica Kubzansky. (Boston Court Pasadena/Submitted)

Twenty-one years ago, Boston Court Pasadena was a mere parking lot. That’s until philanthropist Z. Clark Branson bought the land to give back to the Pasadena arts community. 

Boston Court Pasadena emerged and it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary with the Summer Soiree from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 3.

“The Summer Soiree is happening because Boston Court is turning 20 years old, which is shockingly unbelievable to me,” said Jessica Kubzansky, artistic director. 

“I’ve been here since inception. I cannot believe that 20 years have gone by. June 3 is an open house that is designed to celebrate that. Anyone in our community can attend. We have the amazing Nolan Shaheed, an incredible Pasadena jazz trumpeter, and his band playing sets throughout the event.”

The open house will also feature facility tours, fun activities, crafts activities in the lobby, and highlights from Boston Court’s history on the main stage. 

“It’s just a day to celebrate the fact that we are around and, miraculously, still going strong all these many years later,” she said. 

Kubzansky is touched when she looks back on her time with Boston Court. She was introduced to it when the building was a slab. 

“Z. Clark Branson decided he wanted to dedicate his resources to creating an intimate performing arts center,” Kubzansky said.  

“He, along with founding producing director Eileen T’Kaye, brought the theater architect John Fisher to design a beautiful, intimate facility. I like to say they literally built paradise from a parking lot.” 

The state-of-the-art facility includes a 99-seat main stage and a 70-seat Marjorie Branson Performance Space, in which they do richly eclectic concerts and full productions of adventurous new plays. Boston Court is also the home of an annual New Play Reading Festival, as well as Art Upfront, a rotating visual arts program, National Theatre Live screenings, and many local community events. 

She shared her duties until January 2020, when the board of directors decided it needed a single artistic director. Two months later, the pandemic shut down the world. 

“We really tried to stay in touch with the audience and the community during that crazy time,” Kubzansky said. 

“We pivoted to virtual programming, hosting Beyond the Concept, Behind the Concert conversations with artists as a series of Zoom or virtual meetings for audience to attend. We created an Escape Room that took place at Boston Court that people could play from their living rooms, trying to solve the problem of the stage manager who’s missing one hour before curtain.”

The staff also recorded concerts and offered them virtually. 

“We also spent a lot of our time getting to know our community better,” she said. “We hosted a series of Zoom roundtables to get to know our geographic neighbors, and as a result we were able to form beautiful and authentic partnerships. This is all a part of how we were trying to stay alive.”

The pandemic changed the way in which the public enjoys art of any form, she said. People created new habits, most of which involved staying home and consuming art from their couches. 

“They got used to being cave dwellers,” she said. “They got used to Netflix and chill. It’s interesting. We had a regular patron say they got out of the habit of actually coming to the theater. We suggested it might be good to reform that habit if they want the theater to survive. 

“It’s been fascinating observing the ways in which people are emerging from the shutdown. I am so grateful that we do still have people coming and attending our work and seem to be thrilled to be back in live community with each other.”

Besides the Summer Soiree, the 20th anniversary season carries on with classical pianist Mark Robson at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 24, playing all 21 of Chopin’s “Nocturnes”; a series of National Theatre Live offerings “NT Live: Good” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 22, with David Tennant (“Doctor Who”); “NT Live: Fleabag” at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 8, written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge; “NT Live: Best of Enemies” 2 p.m. Saturday, July 8; “NT Live: Othello” 2 p.m. Sunday, July 9; “NT Live: King Lear” 2 p.m. Sunday, July 16; and the next full theater production, the immersive use of the whole building, “Measure STILL for Measure” Thursday, Sept. 7, to Monday, Oct. 15. 

Kubzansky is excited to see what’s next for Boston Court Pasadena. 

“It’s a really exciting time to be turning 20,” she said. “Like so many, we have had to learn, pivot, and make new practices. Discovering the 3.0 of Boston Court means we have to be the opposite of a crusty old institution. We are on a path of continuous innovation and renewal, for which we are deeply grateful.”

Summer Soiree

WHEN: 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 3

WHERE: Boston Court Pasadena, 70 N. Mentor Avenue, Pasadena

COST: Free admission; reservations required