By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
(2) We need nonprofit institutions with sufficient influence to curate local festivals of new works for national markets. Since we lost A S K Theatre Projects, which was brilliant at wooing the nation's top theaters to its annual Common Ground Festival of works in development, REDCAT, a theater in Disney Hall administered and originally funded by CalArts, has emerged as A S K's most viable replacement with a similar commitment to interdisciplinary performance. Aside from its programming of international and local companies, and REDCAT's semiannual Studio series of workshop productions, REDCAT and Center Theatre Group are involved in the planning of an "Under the Radar" performance festival in 2011, based on the model at New York's Public Theatre, and using some of the same organizers. David Sefton continues to program scintillating works in his International Theatre Festival at UCLA Live. (Why isn't more of our best work going abroad?) The emergence of the noncurated Hollywood Fringe festival, this coming June 17-27, is also a very promising sign, as is the first "microfestival" presented in Los Angeles by the national Network of Ensemble Theaters, later this year.
(3) We need an L.A. Theater Chamber of Commerce, created for the express purpose of establishing liaisons between our companies and those in other American cities, with the aim of intranational exchanges of productions. If it's kept to a grassroots level of mutual hospitality, one level where theater is currently thriving, such a chamber could facilitate exchanges that are as viable financially as they are artistically. Note: A S K Theatre Projects was funded on Audrey Skirball-Kenis Foundation money. REDCAT exists because of Disney money. These were, and are, the hippest theater scenes in town.
Which leads to wish No. (4). Eli Broad, where are you? Or the moguls at Paramount Pictures or Searchlight? You could fund an L.A. Theater Chamber of Commerce while sneezing and not even notice. Don't do it just because it's the Right Thing to Do. We understand that's the most unpersuasive and possibly offensive reason for you to do anything. Just visit Upright Citizens Brigade on a Saturday night, if you can get in past all the teens. Or visit the Steve Allen Theater. Or REDCAT. That's where you'll see a kind of theater that bounces off the walls. And most of it born in L.A. You should get behind it, because its heat, and its cool, will rub off on you, and make you look as good as it makes you feel.
Next summer, we'll have a rare convergence of activities that could propel us into a national spotlight. For the first time in its 50-year history, Theatre Communications Group — the national theater-support organization and watchdog (it publishes American Theatre magazine) — will hold its annual conference in Los Angeles.
TCG executive director Teresa Eyring said that the organization chose L.A. for a number of reasons: "It represents a microcosm of how theater has evolved in this nation, from large resident companies such as the Center Theatre Group to small ensembles of every stripe. It is an extremely progressive theater community in terms of its consciousness of internationalism, arts learning, new work and new forms. And it has grown up next to the film and television industries, which at one time were believed to be a major threat to the very existence of theater. We are very excited about the energy and possibility presented by Los Angeles for our 2011 conference."
Meanwhile, with the plans for our own "Under the Radar" theater festival to coincide with the TCG conference, in conjunction with what will then be the second Hollywood Fringe festival, the eyes of the country will be on our theater in the summer of '11. Now's the time to determine what we want to make of that opportunity.
There's little reason that in this city, inventiveness should be seen as running contrary to anybody's interests, or that we can't take the bountiful assets of our theater community, and, through investment and rigor and wit and some daring, transform them into a kind of theater that can pay back dividends to investors, while earning the theater here some respect.
What makes a good producer? The ability to see what's already growing in the backyard, to learn from it, to cultivate it, with the aim of harvests in years to come. That's not only good for the art, it's good business as well.