Last week's cover story by Weekly theater critic Steven Leigh Morris ("Why Theater Matters," March 25), written to coincide with the 31st annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards (see feature), took a hard look at the virtues and vices of our local theater scene, and how its virtues of talent and passion can be, and are being, fashioned into a unique theater laboratory and a source of national respect. Not surprisingly, the article drew some thoughtful and lengthy responses from the theater community.
"Strong and provocative article," writes Jeffrey Sweet. "Theater has always been an expression of community, but both the physical and psychic sprawl of L.A. work against a community sensibility. In Chicago, 90 percent of the interesting theaters are within a six-block walk of the major north-south subway/L line. Easy to get to, cheap to attend.
"In my experience, NOTHING in L.A. is easy to get to unless it's in your neighborhood. Perhaps one solution to getting the best stuff to a larger audience is to have an annual 'Best of L.A.' festival drawing from the various areas, mounted in the most accessible neighborhood in L.A. Where would that be? Hollywood?"
"Superb breakdown of the situation," notes Richard Tatum. "I would further add that considering the HUGE number of small companies in L.A., one thing that will help is a greater sense of that community. More cooperation among these groups, more support of each other — rather than a sense of competition — could help foster a sense of the immense strength of L.A. theater. The L.A. Stage Alliance is definitely a step in the right direction, but it seems to me that this is just a start. You couldn't be more right — as theater goes, so goes the country."
"This is wonderful," says James Asmus. "And I wholly agree. It is the lesser economics of theater that allow it to take risks and address unpleasant viewpoints and truths. But the theater is a much-needed human and social experience in our age of isolated digital immersion."
Danielle S. Fairless adds to that: "This summer, the annual Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW) at CSUN will enter its 53rd year of producing plays for young people. For many of the children who come to the productions, a TADW play or musical is their first live-theater experience. And for many of the young actors who enroll in the program and perform in the productions, the experience sparks a lifelong love affair with the stage. Many go on to study theater arts in college. That's all it takes: Exposure. Imagine that?"
Knute believes theater is essential: "The death of theater portends ... the death of what holds us together as a people. That flash, that spark that only comes when people engage with people in a live arts setting. There's nothing like it. That's why I'm confident we'll bring it back once we realize how desperate we've become without it."
On that note, we hear from Kat Primeau, who poses an important question: "As a somewhat recent transplant to L.A., I know all too well about my peers giving up on theater here, moving toward 'greener pasture$' in film & TV or leaving L.A. and its theater forever. I agree that more cooperation and awareness amongst different companies and artists will ease the burden we inevitably face with theater in a new market/era. The Fringe and the coincidences in 2011 are all wonderful opportunities to unite, and your suggestions for a Chamber of Commerce, etc., can help lead the way — it's a matter of enacting concrete plans of action before then. I've committed to seeing this movement through. ... Who's with me?!"
IT'S WRONG, RIGHT?
Weekly staffer Gene Maddaus had a few suggestions for the city of L.A. this week ("Getting It Wrong," March 25). Nine suggestions, in fact, detailing what L.A. could have done to avoid its present budget mess. A couple readers had a few suggestions for Maddaus:
"Hey, jerk, just to let you know, a lot of us do jobs no one wants to do for low pay," writes Johnathan. "SO before you blast the city workers in an article for a crap magazine, as the city workers for [sic] pick up your trashy rag off the ground since it's litter, rather [sic] or not we deserve our pay or not."
Smarterthanyou had this to say: "How dare this columnist compare government workers to a BASEBALL PLAYER!! What an idiot!!"
("Public employees are not A-Rod," wrote Maddaus. "You don't need to sign them to a long-term deal.")
Gwennie sees a trend, and counters: "Reading the first two comments makes me think that city employees do not agree with Mr. Maddaus' point of view. Tell you what, Gene, I will pick up L.A. Weekly every week as long as you continue to write interesting and thought-provoking articles such as this one."
And Peter from Burbank thinks "Getting It Wrong" "is a smackingly good piece of journalism. It's work like this that prompts me to flip through each week's print edition in search of something interesting."
"It's the LAPD, stupid!" writes Ivan Corpeno-Chavez. "The LAPD consumes, or rather wastes, 51 percent of the general fund, including settlements for police-brutality claims, and overtime. Which is more wasteful, police, who safeguard the haves from the rest of us, or direct services, like parks, libraries and child care?"
Finally, Cynthia Nunnery offers this: "What Maddaus did not mention in this article is the $400 million in 'uncollected' business fees and parking-lot taxes that the mayor refuses to go after. If collected, those funds would nearly wipe out this fiscal year's deficit."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Maddaus, the ball is in your court.
MAKE THEATER MATTER, Y'ALL
Regarding Steven Leigh Morris' sidebar to his theater cover ("At the Tip of the Spear: Players on the fringe, making the future," March 25), Zombie Joe's Underground has this to say: "This is IT! Keep pushing the boundaries, the blocking tight, the voices strong, the vision clear, the dream alive!"
Hey, Zombie Joe, we will if you will.
YES, WE HAVE NO MORE LETTERS
Send us your opinions, and we will share them. Contact info appreciated. At email@example.com. Thanks.