Fremont Centre Theatre Opens a Floodgate of Memories

I was getting a sandwich the other day at one of my favorite So Pas lunch places, Fiore Market Café on the corner of El Centro Street and Fremont Avenue, when I accidentally found myself walking through a side door and into instant memory lane.

I don’t know why I walked through that door, maybe looking for a restroom or most likely snooping around a bit, which is an occupational hazard.

But I found myself in this incredible theater lobby. I knew that the Fremont Centre Theatre was in the same building as the cafe but was unaware of the feelings this lobby brought forth like a rushing stream of clean, crisp mountain water.

Walking around, I became immersed in my youth, when I would run around with my brothers and friends backstage of theaters across this great land of ours. My dad was an actor, James Whitmore. Some of you may remember my dad, who passed in 2009, he was nominated twice for an academy award. In fact, he holds the distinction of being the only actor to be nominated for a best actor academy award in a movie where he is the only person in the movie. He was nominated for best actor in 1975 for his one-man show, “Give ‘em Hell, Harry,” about President Harry Truman. He lost to Jack Nicholson. Ugh!

In any event, I grew up backstage of theaters and on movie and TV sound stages. The dressing rooms, the make-up, the mirrors, the performers in half-dress josling about, the hustle and bustle of people moving backstage. I remembered it all.

We were always trying to stay out of the way and always in the way as kids have a wont to do . It was like a family, restless, stressed-out and noisy. But a family, supportive, funny and forgiving.

Fueled by nostalgia,  I called the owner, Lissa Reynolds, asking if I could visit the backstage area. Reynolds, a successful actress in her own right, was gracious and forthcoming. She allowed me to explore backstage, on the stage, and the seating area. It’s an amazing theater. First-rate. Top-flight. But I don’t need to tell you guys that. You know how important the Fremont Centre Theatre is to So Pas and elsewhere. And it’s all right here in South Pasadena. We are a lucky bunch. I am grateful to be a part of it. Talk soon.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.