Fred Rothman was a fur trapper, World War I sergeant and telegraph operator for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1915 he founded downtown L.A.’s wildly profitable Angelus Typewriter company. Before the Depression struck, Rothman owned three of four property corners at the intersection of Western and Wilshire.
One hundred and two years later, Rothman’s great-grandson Jamie Flam has assembled a museum-quality homage to the interrelated Dynasty Typewriter company, tracing the Dynasty family’s storied and stylistic evolution from 17th-century England. One small catch: Dynasty Typewriter never existed.
Flam, for six years booker and artistic director of Melrose Avenue’s Hollywood Improv, reopens L.A.’s historic Hayworth Theatre in Westlake next month under the auspices of his fictional Dynasty Typewriter re-creation. A 1930s ambiance saturates and inspires the real endeavor behind the simulacrum: a new comedy venue curating an eclectic range of programming.
“It’s been a growing dream of mine to build an entire world in one location, and in the last 10 years I learned the business of comedy and how to grow communities,” Flam says. “I’ve not only dreamed of doing it on my own but to do something completely different.”
The “Dynasty” moniker, he explains, “plays to the history of the building, and of course the history of my family,” which traces its Los Angeles roots back five generations.
Originally opened in 1926 as the Masque Theatre playhouse, 2511 Wilshire Boulevard housed the Vagabond movie theater from 1950 to 1985. Today it provides second-floor office space for owners Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange Is the New Black) and husband Christopher Noxon’s Tilted Productions.
Located one block northwest of MacArthur Park, the leased theater begins test shows in early November, soft launches in December, and celebrates its grand opening in March 2018. A Kickstarter campaign starts today, offering a range of ticket and membership options.
Dynasty Typewriter seats 199 and boasts an expansive stage, refurbished green rooms, a side “speakeasy” for nurturing newer performers and space for a future podcast studio. An ornate lobby bar is due within six months.
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“For the Eastside, there’s really no seven-nights-a-week place to go see comedy,” Flam emphasizes. “At least nothing like this.”
Dynasty’s schedule will incorporate stand-up, storytelling, readings, live podcasts, musicals, speaking engagements, workshops, movie screenings and Flam’s personal favorite, vaudeville-style variety acts. The overall mission highlights discovery and exposing new audiences to diverse offerings. As Flam puts it, “I feel like we have an opportunity to merge a lot of artistic worlds and audiences that wouldn’t normally merge.”
Taking cues from the realm of established theater, programming initiatives further elevate the notion of live comedy as an art form. A “seasonal” subscription model will comprise opening and closing weeks, limited runs, even tentpole galas. In other words, a recurring slate of comedy that’s both sophisticated and culturally innovative.
Flam hopes Dynasty Typewriter will not only entertain but, over time, foster collective education and social activism. “I love it when people are excited to be a part of something, and they can celebrate watching it grow,” he says. “I think the world is ready for this idea of a place where you’re a member of a community built around premium comedy shows.”