In February, 1932, during the lowest ebb of the Great Depression, the new Pasadena Civic Auditorium was dedicated “to the citizens of Pasadena, whose efforts and sacrifices have made the erection of this beautiful and useful building possible.” In the decades since its dedication, the Civic has hosted millions of patrons from several generations of Southern Californians.
The Civic has been the center of Pasadena’s Cultural life by hosting thousands of community events such as Rose Queen Ceremonies, graduations, benefit concerts, speeches by famous personalities, and countless programs for children. The live radio broadcasts of the big band dances from the Civic in the 1940s helped to spread the fame of Pasadena across the United States.
With the construction of the Pasadena Center in the 1970s, the Civic became part of a full service convention center complex that includes a Conference building, Exhibition building, and with an adjacent hotel and parking garage.
As a home for ballet, symphony, popular music, musical comedy and television programs, the Civic is known for hosting a wide variety of special events. Among the many great orchestras of the world, the Civic has hosted the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pasadena Symphony, and is home to MUSE/IQUE, a counter-conventional orchestra. The Civic has hosted the dance program for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival as well as repeating engagements of the American Ballet theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the San Francisco Ballet.
The list of performers who have graced this stage is an overview of the great performers of the twentieth century. Diverse artists such as Marian Anderson, Victor Borge, Eric Clapton, David Copperfield, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Josh Groban, Hal Holbrook, Bob Hope, Luciano Pavarotti, Arthur Rubenstein, Carlos Santana, and Stevie Wonder have all performed at the Civic.
A favorite location for television and film, the Civic hosted the Prime Time Emmy awards for more than twenty years. The theater is particularly well known for its TV specials such as Ray Charles 50 Years in Music and the Motown 25th Anniversary Television Special.
The Civic was once a regular stop on the Broadway touring circuit with such productions as Cats, Les Miserables, Riverdance, Beauty and the Beast, and Evita.
The Civic continues to host the Distinguished Speaker Series, the NAACP Image Awards, the NCLR Alma Awards, cultural performances, musical shows and graduation ceremonies. The historic Pasadena Civic Auditorium, its grand lobbies and resplendent Gold Room can be seen in episodes of “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Scandal,” and “NCIS.”
The Civic is a grand theatre with a varied and proud tradition. It will serve us well into the 21st century.