As Jennie says in her post, she and I are members of the Playwrights Union. Jennie is a fantastic writer. Her work is language driven with that great taste of absurd thrown in. Funny and heartbreaking, a combination that is hard to pull off. I had to sorta poke and prod her to write this blog for me (her reasons below), but I’m glad she did. I’m about to come into my second year here as an LA resident, and I realized: I don’t know very much at ALL about the LA theater scene… It exists… I know that. Jennie was very kind to do this for me. So two things.
1. If your company isn’t mentioned… no harm was intended… don’t send Jennie hate mail. Send ME the hate mail in the form of a blog and I’ll put it up.
2. If you know of a company that wasn’t mention, send it to me, I’ll put it up.
Jennie Webb Blogs Against Her Better Judgment About LA Theater
My first thought is, “I guess. Don’t you?”
And then I remember a couple of things:
- Not everyone has lived in LA as long as I have. (That’s pretty much forever.)
- Just like LA itself, the theaters and the theater community is/are spread out and always in flux and can be really confusing to navigate. (An expression I sometimes use when describing LA in general is “pridefully inaccessible.” Like, “We know where/what we are, why don’t you?”)
Now, I’m not much of a blogger. I don’t generally find myself interesting enough to talk about. But then the dreamy Larry (a Playwrights Union pal) asked if I wanted to talk about LA Theaters for his blog.
My first thought was, “Not so much. Any time you talk about ‘LA Theaters,’ someone always gets pissed off.”
But then I considered a couple of things:
- It would let me talk about and give props to people and companies that are doing interesting stuff.
- It’ll maybe get them thinking about what interesting playwrights are in LA they don’t already know.
(As a side note, there have always been conversations within the LA theater community about how to strengthen connect the community – see “spread out…confusing to navigate,” above. Lately LA STAGE Alliance is on it. Not a lot of playwrights involved or targeted, I don’t think. Hmmm. Anyone?)
So here goes: my very non-expert and way subjective (and geographically biased; I’m in Eagle Rock) run down of intimate theaters (we don’t say 99-seat anymore) who do new work from one playwright’s perspective – a woman playwright who’d like to see more women playwrights LA stages (can’t we do better than 20%?).
That said, I’m sure I’ll forget some of my favorites, I’m well aware there’s fabulousness happening I don’t know about (yet), and I’m intentionally leaving off the big guns.
(As for the names I’ve included, no, for the most part I don’t know their submission policies. A lot are membership companies which can mean a lot of things, not always dues. And yes, of course it helps to know someone there.)
Buckle up, because this will take awhile. It’s a big town.
The way I see it, LA Theaters (and companies) who produce new writing pretty much fall into three categories.
- Companies who’ve got spaces, and sometimes co-produce/rent the space(s)
Newest kids to join this club are Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA and Circle X, who share the Atwater Village Theatre. They each do some really solid, risky work. They only recently moved into the space (which is terrific), but have both been around for awhile.
SOSE takes big chances in their way small space on Beverly; they’ve been there about 10 years now? Love Bootleg down the street (so glad it’s thriving post Evidence Room!) and of course Boston Court is pretty much playwrights’ heaven.
The forces behind 24th Street are spectacular, but lately are producing new int’l works.
It’s always tricky to figure out what’s going with LATC downtown; right now it’s operated by Latino Theatre Company (hosting Playwrights Arena, Cornerstone & Robey) and they’ve got a season with 4 of 6 new works written by women. Hot! Nearby in the Alexandria, Company of Angels definitely produces LA writers.
Open Fist also takes chances; they’re now in the old Actors’ Gang space on SM Bl. (Should I stop dating myself?) Down the street is the Elephant; although they have a lot of spaces (Lillian Theatre is awesome) and do a lot of rentals, the company goes out on a limb with their own stuff (and they recently announced they’re seeking submissions).
Furthrer into “Theatre Row” is The Blank; they have an open submission policy (recently looking for women playwrights!) for their reading series.
The Fountain is a classy joint but I think a bit of a closed shop to writers? Moving Arts has tiny home in Silverlake and a great track record, but is maybe transitioning re full productions. In Los Feliz, Katselas Theatre Company at the Skylight recently announced a new play program and has amped their energies in that direction.
Lots of other terrific spaces in the Hollywood area who are mostly up for grabs by visiting productions; more on that later.
Unabashed pandering: As a member of LA’s Rogue Machine, I can’t recommend them enough. (They’re in residence at Theatre/Theater right now). Down the street is Black Dahlia; when they produce, it’s totally worth investigating.
In NoHo check out The Road (they’ve got a reading series), take a chance on The Eclectic (all projects come from within the company) and I just love Zombie Joe’s Underground. Seriously. ZJU has a very specific sensibility, so if your writing fits into that…
There’s sometimes interesting in-house stuff going on at the Whitefire and Victory. Theatre Tribe has quality written all over their productions but can hide out for long periods. The admirable Syzygy was bunking with GTC Burbank, but both are napping now?
I honestly don’t get over to the Westside all that often (someone nudge me, please?), but there seems to be new writing happening at PRT. Actors’ Gang is now at Ivy Substation, but don’t know if they’re open to outside writers. The most visible space in the (310) is the Odyssey, but although they have company-created work (Evidence Room’s co-producing there now), I actually think of the Odyssey more in the next category.
- Spaces that co-produce/rent that sometimes produce their own work.
In Hollywood especially, the list is long: On Santa Monica Bl The Lounge has got two great spaces OFTC-adjacent; Theatre Row’s Hudson Theatres, three, and The Complex, a ton. Stella Adler Theatres on Hwd Bl has a bunch as well. The Zephyr and The Matrix (company productions tend to be classics now-a-days?) are on Melrose.
Honestly, there are tons of very cool spaces all over town, run by very cool people. There’s also still kind of a “self-producing” stigma, which is a bitch. (Especially since the message women playwrights often get is, “Well, just self-produce!”)
- Companies that move from space to space and may or may not be looking for a home.
They also may or may not be looking for material – and companies come and go – but a few on my new-work-radar that appear to be sticking around awhile are Chalk Rep (intentionally site-specific), Sky Pilot Theatre (good ratio of plays by women), Furious Theatre (super angry man plays), Echo Theater Company (kinda quiet lately), Playwrights Arena (LA-writer-centric), Cornerstone (LA-community-centric), Robey Theatre & Towne Street (black companies), Ghost Road (ensemble creations), Rogue Artists Ensemble (highly visual), LA Women’s Theatre Project (pretty lesbian), Theatre Movement Bazaar (more for performers), New American Theatre (formerly Circus Theatricals) and Santa Monica Rep (just because).
Okay. I’m done.
I know I’ll get yelled at for leaving someone amazing out.
So who’s going to the theater this weekend? Me, ‘m glad I’m leaving town.
Jennie Webb is an independent Los Angeles playwright whose plays, including Yard Sale Signs, Blood Replacement, Remodeling Plans, The Complete Story of the War, Men & Boxes, Tilting, Buying a House and Unclaimed Assets, have been presented on stages and in/at/around alternative venues throughout the U.S. and internationally at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her works have been published by Heinemann Press and International Centre for Women Playwrights, and supported by The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis’ PlayLabs, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights and The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga, California, where she is currently playwright-in-residence and runs “Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights.” She is a member of Rogue Machine Theatre (where her Yard Sale Signs premiered in 2010) and The Playwrights Union, recently joined EST-LA’s Playwrights Unit, and is co-founder and an instigator of the LA Female Playwrights Initiative (LA FPI). She also works as a freelance arts writer, and was chosen to receive a Women in Theatre Red Carpet Award. More at www.jenniewebbsite.com; she tweets, but not about herself, @jenniewebbsite.