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Stoneface at the Pasadena Playhouse

Updated on June 4, 2014

French and Vanessa Stewart

Meet at the Geffen Playhouse in 2009 and married in 2011.
Meet at the Geffen Playhouse in 2009 and married in 2011. | Source

A House Falls on French Stewart as Buster Keaton

The costumes are terrific and so are the sets. In one scene there is a wood house in the center of the stage. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (Scott Leggett) and Buster Keaton (French Stewart) take the stage. They exchange minimal dialogue as Buster stands center stage. As he crosses his arms, the house falls down and misses him within inches. The set weighs over 300 pounds of wood. It is perfectly choreographed with the actor, director, stage director and stage manager. It will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

They also use a black and white screen to create a unique theater experience.

It's a Wonderful Love Story

She is kinda shy, he is the award winning actor French Stewart. There is a 12 year difference in age, yet French Stewart noticed a gem of a gal. He introduced himself to her twice. Once when she was wearing a wig. Their love blossomed and the two became an item.

French Stewart told Vanessa his dreams. As an 18 year old, he worked as an usher at the Pasadena Playhouse. He had a dream to star as Hamlet on the Pasadena stage one day.

He also shared with Vanessa his fascination with the silent screen star Buster Keaton.

Dreams do come true. Vanessa researched the life of Buster Keaton and decided to write a play about his life. She titled it Stoneface and gave it to French as a birthday present. The two took it to Sacred Fools Theater Company and found their friend Jamie Robledo to direct the production.

They opened May 2012 at an 82 seat theater in East Hollywood and ran 68 sold-out shows. This critical darling received awards and the title of "Production of the Year."

With a hit on their hands they romanced Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps. He loved the production and welcomed the Stewarts onstage for the 2014 season.

Jamie said that when they were at the East Hollywood Theater it was like someone gave him a yo-yo to play with. Now being at the Pasadena Playhouse, it's like he was given an Xbox.

The Pasadena Playhouse has 654 seats. Quite a difference to the 82 seat theater in Hollywood.

The play opens with previews June 3 and closed June 29. Go buy a ticket for a one-of-a-kind show about Buster Keaton and his lovers and friends in the silent films.

The House Comes Down

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The Pianist

Ryan Johnson is actually a rock-star keyboardist for Uberband. He started working with the troop and enjoys being a musical director for their theater productions.

Johnson started playing the piano at the age of 10. He also plays the guitar, banjo and harmonica. He wrote the original music for Sacred Fools.

You will see him below and to the right of the stage throughout the production.

The Pianist - Ryan Johnson with French Stewart

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Buster Keaton

Born on October 4, 1895 in Kansas, he died February 1, 1966 in California. Keaton was best known as a silent film actor and director. Stories are told that he tumbled down a flight of stairs at the age of 6 months unharmed. While working with Keaton's father in vaudeville, Harry Houdini nicknamed him - Buster. He started performing on stage at the age of three with his mother and father in vaudeville.

Later in the silent films, he became friends with Roscoe ("Fatty") Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin. His nickname was changed to - The Great Stone Face.

Silent Films

Who was your favorite silent film star?

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Charlie Chaplin - Guy Picot

Actor Guy Picot is from Brighton, England and came to America five years ago. He sure looks the part of Charlie Chaplin.

In the beginning of the show we see Charlie off stage as a producer, film maker and colleague of Buster Keaton, before he stars in silent films.

Charlie was born in 1889 in London, England. He was best known for his role in "the Tramp." In 1921 he made another popular film, "the Kid" with Jackie Coogan.

In 1975 Charlie Chaplin was knighted Sir. He lived a long life and died at the age of 88.


Charlie Chaplin - Guy Picot

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Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle - Scott Leggett

Scott caught the acting bug early hanging with his mother and father while they were acting on stage. He was the class clown in high school and loved being around the theater department. Graduating from Penn State, he found the Sacred Fools Company and a new family and home.

The director of Stoneface, Jamie Robledo often slept on the floor of Leggett's apartment. The young Buster Keaton in the show, Joe Fria has spent the last four summers with Leggett in various Summer Theater productions.

This cast is a tight family and act together beautifully on stage.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and the young Buster Keaton

Actors Scott Leggett and Joe Fria
Actors Scott Leggett and Joe Fria | Source

Production Team

Director
Scenic Designer
Costume Designer
Jaime Robledo
Joel Daavid
Jessica Olsen
Lighting Designer
Sound Designer
Stage Manager
Jeremy Pivnick
Cricket S. Myers
Susie Walsh

The Cast of STONEFACE

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Young Buster with Natalie Talmadge

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Natalie Talmadge - Tegan Ashton Cohan

I was surprised to learn that Tegan Ashton Cohan is a professional clown as well as an accomplished actress. Raised in San Diego, she practiced her physical comedy with her family and learned the art of clowning "on the mean streets of clown town."

French Stewart with the cast of STONEFACE

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Pasadena Playhouse Friendship Center

There are three interactive activities to do before or during intermission at the Pasadena Playhouse. Look at the photos of the cast along the walls to learn more about how Stoneface arrived at the Playhouse. Try on a hat just like the one Buster Keaton wore and take a "selfie." Send it to Instagram #Stoneface #Pasadenaplayhouse #BeaBuster or Tweet the photo with #Stoneface @PasPlayhouse #BeABuster.

In one scene in the show there is a dining room set with a pulley system to pass items to another person at the table. In the Friedship Center, there is a smaller table and pulley system for guests to try out.

Friendship Room at the Pasadena Playhouse

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