How live performances show groups a good time

Before the velvety red curtain recedes away from the stage, the auditorium lights dim and the low clamor of voices from the audience falls silent. From there, the anticipation begins to sprout in the chests of playgoers and their hosts alike. Providing a successful and amazing experience for event attendees can often feel like an award-worthy performance for meeting professionals, and rightfully so, as the smiling faces of attendees funnel out of the venue chatting about the performance.

In Northern California, Southern California and Las Vegas, meeting professionals have the unique opportunity of treating attendees to unforgettable experiences through live theater and interactive museums that showcase various forms of entertainment that brighten our lives. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Theater, the Pasadena Playhouse and the newly opened Punk Rock Museum in Vegas all offer groups a captivating, and at times, enlightening adventure.

A Tony Award-winning Theater

For those gathering in Southern California, the Pasadena Playhouse offers the theatrically uninitiated the chance to view a live performance at the official State Theater of California, which first opened in 1917 and has since been the stage for thousands of performances, including those from preeminent playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill and Suzan Lori Parks.

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In June, the Playhouse won the 2023 Regional Theater Tony Award—based on recommendations handed down from American Theater Critics Association. The honor comes with a $25,000 grant provided by City National Bank.

Channeling an unparalleled spirit of community, creativity and innovation—Pasadena Playhouse has been redefining theater arts throughout the country and beyond for more than a century,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “This much-deserved award recognizes the extraordinary legacy of this world-renowned institution and all the dedicated artists, theater makers and supporters who help bring to life impactful stories for the ages.”

Museum of an Unexpected Kind

glass case of memorabilia of the ramones rock band

Do you remember museums? You know, those places of ancient artifacts housed behind glass in cold fixtures made from metal and stone. Well, this museum is of a different ilk. Having just opened on April 1 of this year, The Punk Rock Museum offers seasoned fans of the impactful genre, as well as non-fans, an opportunity to dive headlong into a musical experience unlike any other.

“The idea came about roughly two years ago,” says museum chief marketing officer and founding member of the punk group “Less Than Jake,” Vinnie Fiorello. The concept of The Punk Rock Museum came to fruition thanks to the efforts of the Punk Rock Collective—a group of musicians including “Fat Mike” Burkett of the band NOFX, Pennywise guitarist Fletch Dragge, Bryan Ray Turcotte and Fiorello. “It was a process,” he said. “It was really a labor of love.”

The museum extends its tentacles through 50 years of punk history, providing guests with an in-depth look at the genre that has cast influence across countless facets of American culture. “You can see the reverberation since the ‘70s,” Fiorello said, noting that punk’s influence is evident in many mainstream areas, including fashion. “Our job is to look around and see visual and audio touch points that show the lineage of the music,” he said, adding, “[punk] is so much more than Mohawks.” Groups can venture through the museum with guided tours provided by “living punk rock legends,” according to Fiorello.

So much more, indeed! Beyond exploring the countless artifacts including photos, clothing, instruments, artwork and even pages of hand-written lyrics, visitors can try their hand at instruments that belonged to well-known musicians such as Joan Jet. “My favorite part of the museum is the Jam Room—you can pick up a guitar and play through any song,” Fiorello said. The experience lends an interactive and memorable component to the museum.

Planners have the opportunity to treat groups to some refreshments at The Triple Down—the museum’s bar co-managed by punk legend P Moss inspired by Moss’ famous Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas. Guests can sample a variety of punk-inspired cocktails including the “Fletcher,” based on the habits of Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge while traveling with his band on tour. He required all of his adult beverages to be served in a super-size format, but alas, no cup in sight could suffice. “So, he used an empty Pringles can for his rum and Cokes,” Fiorello said. Guests can enjoy the massive pour served in an empty Pringles can and served with a side of Pringles chips. The Triple Down can accommodate over 100 guests.

Theater by the Lake

man speaking on stage in front of lake, with group in crowd

Lake Tahoe is most well-known for its wide array of outdoor activities including skiing, mountain biking, golf, hiking and so much more, but Tahoe also offers a healthy dose of culture lakeside at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (LTSF), set to kick off at the end of June with “Little Shop of Horrors.”

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The 1,000-seat auditorium first opened in 1972 at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and featured live performances of the works of Shakespeare on the lawn in front of the Ehrman Mansion until ongoing maintenance issues forced the plays to cease. By 1979, the theater company had landed a new home at Tahoe’s Sand Harbor with the help of the North Tahoe Fine Arts Council and Nevada State Parks and featured a modest stage built by volunteers. The nonprofit Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation invited the theater company in 1999 to share space at the Donald W. Reynolds Not-for-Profit Center where it remains today.

Groups can gather beside the lake ensconced by pines under the stars while sipping wine and enjoying a live performance provided by actors who bring their A-game. “Eat, drink and be merry,” is the slogan boasted from the theater’s kitchen, operated by Brimm’s Catering Co., with offerings that include starters such as charcuterie boards, gourmet salads and sandwiches and even a taco bar—all made fresh daily.

“Our 2023 season programming reflects our ongoing efforts to rebuild after three pandemic-disrupted seasons,” said LTSF Producing Artistic Director Charles Fee. “To be prudent, we have decided to produce a single mainstage offering in 2023. We chose to produce the small-cast musical “Little Shop of Horrors” instead of a large-scale Shakespeare title because it enables us to maximize production cost efficiencies–as the musical has already been built, fully rehearsed and played to great success at our partner theaters in Boise and Cleveland.” The 2023 season kicks off on June 30 and will run through Aug. 20.

New in Pasadena

A view of a map directory posted on a light signal at an intersection

AC Hotel

Colorado Boulevard, famous for being the route to the world-famous and Pasadena-treasured Rose Bowl parade, will be the site of a new AC Hotel. Projected to be completed in the summer of 2024, it will be the first branded hotel in the Playhouse Village District surrounded by the Pasadena Playhouse, Ice House Comedy Club and many entertainment, shopping and dining options.

Hotel Dena, Pasadena Los Angeles, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Directly adjacent to the Pasadena Convention Center, the hotel has joined the ranks of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio. The brand represents hotels with “striking design moments, bold use of color and noteworthy art installations.” With a retro art deco interior aesthetic transporting guests to the days when Pasadena was the original Hollywood, it is clear why Marriott chose to include Hotel Dena in its Tribute Portfolio.

“All Are Welcome in Pasadena”

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Pasadena is celebrating Pride with the launch of a new campaign: “All are welcome in Pasadena.” The iconic rose emblem of the city has been redesigned with pride colors and businesses are encouraged to show their support by raising the proverbial and literal flag. Kristin McGrath, executive director of Visit Pasadena, expresses how important it is for potential Pasadena travelers to know that Pasadena stands with diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We are incredibly excited to launch this Pride month campaign that celebrates Pasadena as a welcoming and safe destination for LGBTQ+ and ally communities,” says McGrath. “Pasadena is a vibrant and diverse community that attracts travelers from around the world.”

–  Morgan Saltz