By Michael Goldstein
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“I had told Danielle we were looking for a place downtown to grow and expand,” Chavez explains. “And she said, ‘Oh, call my friend over at one of the galleries from the Downtown Art Walk.’ The gallery person said, ‘Call Brady Westwater.’ Brady picked up and said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow at 9:30? I think I know this developer.’ ”
The colorful Westwater is one of L.A.’s most tenacious contrarians, a downtown activist obsessed by the shape the city’s rapidly changing landscape is taking. He does not, however, normally come to theater people’s minds when they’re shopping for venues. However, he had a brand-new friend in developer Gary Warfel, who had a project on Grand Avenue near Olympic Boulevard. The president of Titan developers, Warfel recently rescued downtown’s participation in Fashion Week with a $20,000 check, and acquired the Grand Avenue property that had been home to Myron’s Ballroom. He plans to tear down the block to make way for two luxury residential skyscrapers but, in the meantime, was interested in letting Company of Angels use the ballroom for the next one to two years, prior to demolition.
Helping finesse the deal was Jodi Nelson, a singer-actress-artist, who is listed as Titan vice president. And this time, the Angels will not be working under a triple-net lease. In fact, Warfel is letting them stay for free.
“Gary and Jodi are our two angels,” says Chavez.
To those familiar with the company’s spartan Silver Lake digs, the thought of moving the Angels, known for their often intimate, often cerebral work, into the cavernous ballroom conjures images of Jonah living inside the whale. Besides the ballroom’s acoustically challenged maw, the company (which is sharing the space with a dance troupe) will also have use of a much smaller cabaret space. Soon after the deal with Titan, however, San Diego developer Ruben Islas offered Company of Angels use of a black-box space inside the Alexandria Hotel, which his Amerland Group is renovating.
Chavez points out that the venue’s challenges have pushed the company to thinking of ways of staging it hadn’t considered before, and she is excited about the prospect of partnering with the dance company and other groups downtown. The main thing for her group — besides the free rent — is that the Company of Angels has a home for at least one year and will use the breathing space to plan its next move.
“It’s almost like writing a haiku — we have only 17 syllables to work with,” Molina says of the new venue, which is being readied for opening this month. “The place has a cabaret space, and we’ve never done cabaret before. It’s a ballroom space, and the work will be informed by that space. We can do one-person shows and multiple-person shows. I don’t think we’re going to be doing Death of a Salesman.”
See the Company of Angels Web site at http://companyofangels.org.
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