Racquel Lehrman is an interviewer’s dream. You don’t have to think up a lot of questions beforehand — just get ready to talk and write fast. Lehrman, a former standup comedian, runs Theatre Planners, a one-stop producing and publicity company. Her 7-by-8-foot office sits beneath the staircase of her second business, a rental space called the Lounge Theatre. Two hammers lie next to her phone. Years ago she learned what makes people tick by riding around in her father’s taxi in New York. Lehrman punctuates conversations with the word exactly! or, at other times, by knocking on wood for luck.
Lehrman remembers how she found L.A. after moving here six years ago: awful. Her first job, waitressing at Wolfgang Puck’s Café, was an eye-opener: When diners ordered a salad, Lehrman waited a polite moment before asking, What else? Her customers looked at her blankly.
“Who ordered a salad for dinner?” Lehrman says. “I’m a New York Jew, we eat! At breakfast we go, ‘What do you want for dinner?’ At dinner we’ll say, ‘You know, tomorrow night I’m thinking Italian.’”
During her first year here, Lehrman discovered another of the city’s dirty secrets — it had a nearly invisible theater scene concentrated in its smaller venues of 99 seats and under. And unlike New York, where she had produced plays and where it is easier to self-produce independent shows, there was a crying need for producers-for-hire. Enter Lehrman.
She began by publicizing whatever shows came her way, but over time developed a reputation for producing projects that were nervy and popular with younger audiences.
Burnwinds like Lehrman help keep the dream of small, live theater alive and thriving in Los Angeles. People tell her to get involved in TV or movies, but she remains faithful to the stage.
“My husband works in television,” she says, “and it’s like he’s talking Korean to me about it.”
She speaks of the Lounge Theatre, part of the old Actors’ Gang theater located on Santa Monica Boulevard, as a person.
“I love it, I love it — it’s my baby!” Lehrman says, remembering the time three years ago when she took over the Lounge space. It also happened to be the moment she got married.
“I picked up my wedding dress, signed the lease here, made a nice down payment and wondered, Shit, okay! What did I just get myself into?”
She still finds Angelenos a confusing breed.
“They don’t eat, they don’t walk, they don’t do what they say they’re going to do!” says Lehrman, who has left apartment life in Hollywood and keeps a bit of psychic distance between home and work.
“I moved out to the burbs and I love it,” she says. “Tarzana is so un-L.A. — there are fat, pregnant ladies everywhere and Coffee Beans on every corner.”
For now the future is all possibility.
“I want to get an assistant who’ll be my associate,” Lehrman says. “I want a baby, I want another theater — I want it all!”
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