LOS ANGELES THEATER'S RICH HISTORY -- DATING BACK TO 1870s vaudeville in El Pueblo -- is often ignored or forgotten, and frequently disparaged based on long-standing clichés about low standards and artists using the stage to showcase themselves for film and TV. But these are half-truths. Belying the stereotypes is a cadre of people and companies who are trained in the theater, and who may or may not work in the glamour industries but nonetheless keep making excellent theater in L.A. for its own sake, on its own terms.
Our local stage has little to do with tourism or the dollars it brings. Which might explain why television and film have museums here and not so the theater, though Edge of the World Theater Festival is working on plans for one.
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Furthermore, for the first time in many years, there is a sense that our latest generation of theater artists is not going away, not giving up in frustration. A few have been around for decades, and they keep retrenching, finding ever more sophisticated ways of reaching out to their communities and drawing audiences beyond their own circle of family and friends. They come from all corners of the globe and provide what playwright Jon Robin Baitz once called an "antidote to the toxicity of living in a company town." The evidence is growing that they're slowly building a sustainable scene here, with work ranging from the hip to the lyrical to the esoteric. The portraits that follow are a mere sampling of characters who hold the future of the L.A. stage in their hands and hearts.