By Anthony D'Alessandro
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
Though last year's Hollywood Fringe even drew some foreign troupes from places like Australia and the U.K., the often-inspired work was nonetheless mostly de rigueur stand-up and solo shows. Jones hopes the success of last year might attract more adventurous projects. Still, she shrugs, "The whole point is that we don't curate — we open doors and see who comes in."
Hill defines success in the frame of a "scene." "Our definition of success isn't that everyone agrees that a work is good, but that everyone agrees that this is where people are taking it seriously."
Though Radar L.A. is a more heavily curated festival, its organizers hold a similar philosophy. "It's not a rich festival" compared to the big-ticket showcases of world theater in Edinburgh, Adelaide or Avignon, says co-curator Mark Russell, who also runs New York's Under the Radar Festival with Meiyin Wang. They're sitting among Radar L.A.'s other organizers in the cavernous, vacant REDCAT downtown. "But seeing the array of productions should provide a rich experience."
The festival's budget of approximately $750,000 (which includes in-kind contributions of venues by Center Theatre Group and REDCAT) is a fraction of what poured into the city for the Olympic Arts Festival, but both the era and the ambitions are profoundly different.
"It's not splashy in the traditional way," adds co-curator Mark Murphy, REDCAT's executive director. "No RSC, or Robert Wilson. It's more organic. The largest single company consists of 12 people. It's meant to provide a variety of rich experiences as opposed to moments of spectacular dazzlement."
To support this mission, ticket prices will be on par with the Hollywood Fringe: $15 to $20 per performance, or a 10-show pass for $50. The larger point, agree the co-curators (who also include Center Theatre Group's director/producer, Diane Rodriguez), is how the various companies, and their ideas, bump up against each other, and the conversations that ensue from those collisions.
The lineup has not yet been finalized, but a third of the entries will be Los Angeles companies, among them Latino Theater Company, Sekou/Steve Connell, Stew & the Negro Problem, Los Angeles Poverty Department, Moving Arts and Poor Dog Group. Also, unlike New York's Under the Radar Festival, which has deep European influences, Radar L.A. will have a distinctively Pacific Rim tilt, reflecting the cultures that have influenced Southern California. Toshiki Okada and his Japanese company Chelfitsch, Teatro en el Blanco from Chile and the Australian visual theater artist Fleur Elise Noble are among the visiting artists.
The TCG conference will examine the foundering producing models for professional theater in the United States, and seek remedies in new approaches. "What if?" is the overarching theme for the workshops that will try to re-imagine what theater's future will look like with, we hope, an invigorated sense of purpose.
How will the hundreds of TCG visitors view Los Angeles, as compared to last year's conference in Chicago, a city that's at least comprehensible and traversable? If the array of festivals doesn't provide the anticipated adrenalin rush, the attendees' theatrical experience will depend on their patience for unearthing the jewels in our sprawling desert — the life of the arts here when there isn't a convergence of events. Geographically, we're not a hospitable city. Our transportation challenges are even worse. How does one show a guest the richness of our bewildering culture in seven days? The galleries in Culver City or MacArthur Park? LACMA? MOCA? The Ahmanson and Disney Hall? Theater Row? Bergamot Station and Highways in Santa Monica? The Watts Towers? The Electric Lodge in Venice? REDCAT? Mann's Chinese on Hollywood Boulevard? The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena? The Colony Theatre in Burbank, or the Fountain or Sacred Fools theaters in east Hollywood? Zombie Joe's Underground in NoHo?
Nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live here? No, it's more like a horrible place to visit, but you need to live here to appreciate its many virtues.
Does the attempt to compress those virtues into festivals place us at odds with our unique history, and geography? Perhaps a purpose and a way of doing business here, which are more defined, less sprawling, more identifiable and less mercurial, are what will give us a stronger identity. If that's what we need, or even want.
In 2001, the playwright from Pomona has a play performed as a guest production at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood. It gets respectful reviews, though the L.A. Times never gets around to it, and it gets good houses. And then it's gone, as though it never happened.
In November 2008, the same play is performed off-Broadway at a theater that, by New York standards, is not top-tier. The theater, with about 100 seats, looks like so many converted theaters in L.A. The New York Times, Back Stage and Variety show up on opening weekend. The day after the Times' review appears, the playwright receives a message from the theater that a Hollywood film studio has requested a copy of the script. By the time the play closes, Samuel French Inc. has contracted to publish it, and it's slated for Smith & Kraus' anthology Best New American Playwrights of 2009.