eagle rock is not an example of urban blight! it's a totally flourishing diverse community with rising real estate values, great schools and parks, and a fantastic small business community. come over some time.
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
In those formative years, Sargent traveled to L.A. as often as he could to partake of the burgeoning theater scene, engaging in what he describes as a "campaign to get noticed." Where other playwrights might send a script to a literary manager and then wait for months for a response before following up with a phone call, Sargent would walk in, script in hand, and read the play out loud in its entirety, playing all the roles with vivacity, recalls director Bart DeLorenzo, a devoted fan of Sargent's writing.
DeLorenzo staged a site-specific interpretation of Sargent's The Projectionist, starring Hamish Linklater, in the lobby of the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2009. That play, set on Hollywood Boulevard, recalled Sargent's days working at Collectors Bookstore, a memorabilia shop in the same area, after he dropped out of UCLA in 1988 on the heels of his parents' divorce and financial implosion.
A playwriting group headed by much-heralded scribe John Steppling took in the young college dropout. Steppling was himself a poster child for a then-new punk brand of playwriting, embraced by Robert Egan, who was running the Taper's new-play program.
According to Sargent, Egan told him, "We're not doing your plays anytime soon. They're too raw. But how can we help?"
Sargent asked him for connections, and Egan obliged, giving him introductions to sought-after directors such as Ron Link and David Schweizer, who would commission him to write a film script. (With Egan's influence, one of Sargent's plays, Torn Between Two Bitches, would eventually make it into the Taper's 2001 New Works Festival.)
Still, Sargent wonders if professional opportunities were stifled by the familial financial crisis that forced him out of UCLA. While a student there, between 1986 and 1988, Sargent's play When Esther Saw the Light, starring then-student Jack Black, won an American College Theatre Festival new play award. His lack of a B.A. certainly curtailed entry into graduate school, which often leads to the teaching opportunities that support artists.
Sargent never wrote for TV, but he did write "a flurry" of commissioned movie screenplays between 1996 and 2000. He wrote a movie for Bill Pullman, I Dare You, about a daredevil. He worked for Ben Stiller and Tim Burton.
"None of my movies got made," he says. "That's the big tease. My agent moved from one agency to another, and then he retired, and [my screenwriting career] was retired, too."
However, the money Sargent earned from those commissioned screenplays allowed him to direct his own play, Steeltown, at the Actors' Gang in 1998. Director Lisa Peterson saw it and invited Sargent to join the Taper's playwriting group, a predecessor of the one Haley had joined.
Though Sargent worked his way into the upper echelons of New York stages with workshop productions at New York Theatre Workshop, Circle Repertory and Atlantic Theater Company (to which he was invited after ensemble member William H. Macy saw one of his plays in L.A.), he's never received a full production in New York.
These days, working largely without an agent, Sargent is the embodiment of what he calls the DIY playwright, often directing and fundraising for his own plays. His playwriting career has been propelled by relationships he has forged with theaters he has called home: the Cast Theatre on El Centro, when it was run by Ted Schmitt and Diana Gibson, Actors Gang, Theatre/Theater, Evidence Room and the Unknown Theatre — along with influential advocates such as Macy, Schweizer and Egan.
Sargent, who has had six plays produced in the past five years, says productions come "in fits and starts" after he lobs his newest writing to anyone he thinks might be interested.
What's made so much of his career possible is a patron. Though Sargent mentors young playwrights at Occidental College, he doesn't currently work in film or TV, he's not a web designer and, for the most part, he doesn't teach.
"Let's just say I don't have another job," he says. "My husband is a behavior-modification specialist, and he keeps us eating. I've been with him since college. We're at 26 years in May. He's done sets and costumes for my plays."
Sargent also wonders if things might have been different if he'd chosen to settle in New York rather than in L.A.
"There's not a lot of continuity between generations here," he says. "People come and go and don't remember who you were."
But L.A. is simply his home. "I have a point of view about my city, Los Angeles. So I don't want to write a play about Philadelphia. ... It's a struggle, but I'm Zen about it. I'm still curious where it's all going to lead. I'm hoping for the big reveal. But I always seem to go up. Over the years, I think I've become a better writer, and to me that's the most important thing."
Over in Los Feliz, Doris Baizley's play Sexsting (co-written with Susan Raffanti) at the 40-seat Skylight Theatre opens with a scene that's like a mirror image of the opening scene in Haley's The Nether.
An FBI agent impersonates a preteen girl in an online chatroom, as part of a sting operation designed to nab pedophiles by luring them into a real-world meeting. Though the perp expresses apprehension about meeting the "girl," several times refusing "her" invitation, the agent has the "girl" chastise him and threaten suicide if he doesn't visit. The scene supports the play's larger point: We all could go to jail if provoked to act on any of the sicknesses residing in our souls.