Tag Archives: Charles McNulty

Fountain Theatre’s ‘Cost of Living’ hailed “Best in Theater in 2018” by Los Angeles Times

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Katy Sullivan and Felix Solis in ‘Cost of Living’.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed west coast premiere of Cost of Living by Martyna Majok has been named by Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty as “Best in Theater in 2018.”  McNulty writes, “The Fountain Theatre’s production of Majok’s “Cost of Living” confirmed just how indispensable 99-seat theaters still are to a healthy theater ecology.” 

“Martyna Majok’s searing drama,” McNulty continues, “about the relationship between disabled persons and their caregivers was bravely essayed by the Fountain in a production directed by John Vreeke that revealed just how acutely this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama exposes some vulnerable truths at the heart of the human condition.”

Cost of Living features Tobias Forrest, Xochitl Romero, Felix Solis and Katy Sullivan. The run ends this Sunday, December 16.

More Info/Get Tickets 

Photos: Fountain Theatre’s all-star reading of ‘All the President’s Men’ soars at LA City Hall

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The company of ‘All the President’s Men’

Saturday night’s exhilarating reading of All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall was an historic event. Not only was it a powerful statement advocating Freedom of the Press and honoring American journalism, it demonstrated a watershed moment in our city’s engagement with local arts organizations. Never has the City of Los Angeles handed over its Council Chamber to a theatre company and partnered with it in this way. We applaud Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and his staff for making it possible.

The Fountain Theatre believes that events like All the President’s Men, where art and politics intersect to enhance our civic discourse, are essential to an informed society.  We believe a small theatre can do big things.  As Charles McNulty stated in his feature story on our event in the Los Angeles Times, “it is heartening to see an intimate theater like the Fountain advocating for what is in our collective interest as a nation.”

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Jeff Perry and Joe Morton, co-stars on ABC-TV’s hit series Scandal, took on the roles of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and anonymous source “Deep Throat,” joining alumni of The West Wing Bradley Whitford as Bob Woodward and Joshua Malina as Carl Bernstein; Richard Schiff as Post local news editor Harry Rosenfeld; and Ed Begley, Jr. as managing editor Howard Simons. The cast also featured Sam AndersonLeith BurkeSeamus DeverJames Dumont, Arianna OrtizSpencer GarrettDeidrie HenryMorlan HigginsAnna KhajaKaren KondazianRob NagleVirginia NewcombLarry Poindexter and Andrew Robinson. The reading was directed by Stephen Sachs, with sound design by Peter Bayne. 

The reading supported, in part, the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest organization representing American journalists, founded to protect journalism and dedicated to the continuation of a free press. We were honored to be joined by the Los Angeles Press Club, which supports, promotes, and defends quality journalism in Southern California with the belief that a free press is crucial to a free society. And The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, defending the fundamental rights of each citizen as outlined in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“We have a commander-in-chief who does not respect or even understand the freedoms embedded in our Constitution or its First Amendment,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who hosted the reading in the John Ferraro Council Camber. “The Trump administration’s war on the First Amendment includes repeated degradations of the role of media in our society and repeated invocations of ‘fake news’ when the absolute truth does not suit him, blacklisting press on occasion, including, and not ironically, The Washington Post, [and] open discrimination and intolerance under the guise of religious freedom.”

“In Los Angeles, we hold these values dear,” O’Farrell continued. “Donald Trump and his administration do not represent our values. The state of California and the city of Los Angeles, we are leading the resistance. All of us gathered here tonight, we are part and parcel of that resistance.”

“I am so proud of our city,” stated Stephen Sachs in his remarks before the reading. “What other major city in the country would hand over City Hall to its artists? Would have its Councilmembers allowing artists to literally sit in their seats for one night to express an urgent fundamental truth about our country through their art?”

“To every news man and news woman in this room,” Sachs continued. “To every reporter, every elected official, every artist, every citizen – we offer this reminder of hope. The truth will set us free.”

Fountain Theatre’s ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ to get Off-Broadway production

CITIZEN color logoCitizen: An American Lyric, adapted for the stage from Claudia Rankine’s award-winning book of poetry by Rankine and Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, will headline Primary Stages’ 2016-17 season at Off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre. Citizen premiered at the Fountain Theatre last summer to critical acclaim.

“We are thrilled that yet another Fountain project has succeeded in moving onward and upward,” says Sachs. “In 2007, our world premiere production of  Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances was presented Off-Broadway by Primary Stages, so this continues our relationship with them. Claudia and I are working together on a new draft for the New York premiere.” An announcement for the NY opening was featured in The New York Times.  

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre in Memory 2

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

An intensely provocative and unapologetic rumination on racial aggression in America, Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has been heralded as one of the best books of the past decade and received the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. In this new stage adaptation by Rankine and Sachs, seemingly everyday acts of racism are scrutinized as part of an uncompromising testimony of “living while Black” in America, from the shooting of Trayvon Martin, to the tennis career of Serena Williams and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his “critic’s choice” review of the Fountain production, Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote, “Claudia Rankine’s powerful writings about the trauma of racism make for a staging and message that resonate,” and Stage raw critic Myron Meisel called it “a transcendent experience.”

“We are particularly pleased that this piece will have a life in theaters across the country,” added Sachs. “By enlivening Claudia’s powerful book to the stage, we add our theatrical voice to the national conversation on race in America.”

Other plays written by Sachs that were created and launched at the Fountain’s intimate venue in Hollywood include Bakersfield Mist, now produced worldwide including London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner; Heart Song, produced at Florida Repertory Theatre; Miss Julie: Freedom Summer (adapted from August Strindberg’s Miss Julie) at Vancouver Playhouse and Canadian Stage Company in Toronto; and Sweet Nothing in My Ear which has been produced nationwide and was adapted into a TV movie starring Jeff Daniels and Marlee Matlin.

The world premiere production of Citizen: An American Lyric at the Fountain Theatre was directed by Shirley Jo Finney and starred Leith Burke, Bernard K. Addison, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick and Lisa Pescia. The director and cast for the Primary Stages production have not been announced.  

For more information about the Primary Stages production of Citizen: An American Lyric, visit www.primarystages.org.

Fountain Theatre highlighted on “Best” Lists for Theatre in 2015

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The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

As the year draws to an end, the Fountain Theatre is delighted to be highlighted on many of the annual “Best of 2015” lists that are starting to appear.

Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty selected our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to his Best Theater of 2015, hailing it as “Another in the Fountain Theatre’s series of expertly acted productions of the great South African playwright.”

The LA Theatre website Bitter Lemons named The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek as its Top Rated Production of 2015.

And critic Travis Michael Holder honored the Fountain Theatre with several of his TicketHolder Awards for 2015:

BEST PRODUCTION OF 2015

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A PLAY

Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Phillip Solomon, Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, Lisa Pescia, Citizen: An American Lyric
CITIZEN Fountain Theatre feel most colored

Citizen: An American Lyric

NEW DISCOVERY 2015

Phillip Solomon, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST PLAYWRIGHT

Athol Fugard, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST ADAPTATION

RUNNERS-UP: Stephen Sachs, Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

Simon Levy, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Shirley Jo Finney, Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Naila Aladdin-Sanders, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST SOUND DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Peter Bayne, Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST VIDEO DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Yee Eun Nam, Citizen: An American Lyric

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS 

Anastasia Coon, Movement, Citizen: An American Lyric

A marvelous end to a memorable year marking our 25th Anniversary season. More “best” lists will be appearing.  

 

Fountain Theatre Celebrates 25 Years of Intimate Excellence

FT Redbury logo

In celebration of a “silver” theatrical milestone, “The Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Gala and Auction” will honor co-artistic director and award-winning playwright/director Stephen Sachs on Saturday, October 3rd at Hollywood’s Redbury Hotel. City of Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell serves as honorary chair.

The gala event will include a cocktail reception, silent auction, champagne, dessert and dancing on the hotel’s rooftop overlooking Hollywood. Highlights will include a special presentation by Councilmember O’Farrell and a retrospective montage of the last 25 years of Fountain Theatre history.

The Fountain online auction is now live with enthusiastic bidding already underway. Great deals on over 140 amazing items — inc luding travel, dining, theatre and sports tickets, vacation packages — are now available and just one click away. The online auction ends September 3oth. The silent auction takes place on the night of the event at The Redbury on October 3rd.

The evening is a tribute to Sachs, who, together with co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor and producing directorSimon Levy, has guided the organization since its founding in 1990 and cemented its place in the Los Angeles theater community. Under Sachs’ leadership — as a director, a producer and a playwright — the Fountain Theatre has achieved over 250 awards and international acclaim; in a recent article, Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty named the Fountain, “one of L.A.’s most vital intimate theaters.”

Stephen Sachs

Stephen Sachs

Sachs has also personally won every major theater award in Los Angeles, including two Ovation Awards for Best Director of a Play. He has twice been nominated for the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award honoring outstanding stage directors in the Western United States. Sachs has authored 12 plays that have been produced across the U.S. and internationally and translated into multiple languages. A two-time finalist for the PEN Literary Award for drama, Sachs wrote the teleplay for Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Sweet Nothing in My Ear based on his award-winning play. The movie aired on CBS and starred Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and Golden Globe winner Jeff Daniels. His play Bakersfield Mist won the Elliot Norton Award for Best New Play, received its London premiere starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid in London’s West End, and is now being produced in theaters across the country and around the world. Sachs’ Citizen: An American Lyric, a stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s award-winning book, is currently running at the Fountain, where it has received rave reviews and was named a “Critic’s Choice” by the Los Angeles Times.

For more information on the Gala and details about how to participate in the celebration with a tribute message, email FT25@fountaintheatre.com.

Net proceeds from The Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Gala and Auction will provide vital funds to support the development and production of new plays and provide educational outreach opportunities for students throughout greater Los Angeles.

Mixing stylish chic hip with the glamour of old Hollywood, the Redbury is a boutique luxury hotel located near the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine in the heart of Hollywood.

The Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Gala and Auction takes place on Saturday, Oct. 3 from 5 p.m.–9 p.m. Tickets are $125. Special discount tickets for theatre artists are $99. The Redbury Hotel is located at 1717 Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028. For more information to make reservations, call (310) 665-1525 or go to www.fountaintheatre.com.

To enjoy the online auction click here

Fountain Theatre’s ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ Tops Lists of Best Theatre for 2012

"In the Red and Brown Water" (Fountain Theatre, 2012)

“In the Red and Brown Water” (Fountain Theatre, 2012)

The Los Angeles Times has honored the The Fountain Theatre’s critically acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of In the Red and Brown Water by selecting it to its year-end list of Best Theatre in 2012. LA Times Theater Critic Charles McNulty, who hailed the production as “sensational” in his October review, highlighted the smash hit production in his Best Theatre of 2012 feature this Sunday as “a marvel of ensemble acting”, declaring “In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain Theatre gets my vote for production of the year.”

“All of us at the Fountain Theatre are extremely proud of this production, ” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “The acknowledgement from the LA Times is particularly rewarding because Charles McNulty compiled his Best of 2012 list from all of the productions of plays he saw this year, across the country, on both coasts. It demonstrates that the Fountain Theatre — and theater in Los Angeles — can excel at a level as high as anywhere in the country.”

In the Red and Brown Water also topped the 2012 Best of Los Angeles Theater list on the LA Theater website Bitter Lemons. Editor Colin Mitchell hails the Fountain production as “Just pure theatrical heaven from top to bottom, my pick to win every award that it can possibly be nominated for; lead Diarra Kilpatrick is otherworldly. Still playing. Go see it. Now.”

Directed by Shirley Jo Finney, In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney stars Dorian Baucum, Peggy Blow, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Justin Chu Cary, Diarra Kilpatrick, Stephen Marshall, Simone Missick, Iona Morris, Theodore Perkins, and Maya Lynne Robinson.

The acclaimed smash-hit production has been extended to February 24th, 2013. (323) 663-1525  More Info

Diarra Kilpatrick is a natural as a force of nature

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Diarra Kilpatrick

The actress has been called ‘superb’ in her role in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ‘In the Red and Brown Water,’ a play that exists in two conceptual dimensions.

by Reed Johnson

Before Diarra Kilpatrick was cast in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson,” at age 12, she already knew what she wanted to do with her life: anything but acting.

So when her hometown Detroit newspaper interviewed her about the production at a suburban theater, Kilpatrick told the reporter she wanted to be a lawyer or maybe the president of a public relations firm. But definitely not “a struggling actor,” she said.

Recounting that anecdote recently at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, where she’s playing the lead role in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s mytho-poetic drama “In the Red and Brown Water,” Kilpatrick laughed at the memory of her precocious pre-adolescent self.

Because by the time the article went to press, Kilpatrick knew what she absolutely had to do with her life: Be an actor.

“It was the quality of the actors that I got a chance to work with and see them up close,” she said, explaining her overnight career conversion during “The Piano Lesson.” “And the production, the material — it was August Wilson.”

Startling transformations are the stuff of theatrical magic, and they’re central to McCraney’s play, which opened at the Fountain in October and has been extended through Feb. 24. “In the Red and Brown Water” is the first of McCraney’s trilogy “The Brother/Sister Plays,” produced off-Broadway at the Public Theater in 2009.

Set during the “distant present” at a mythical housing project in a make-believe Louisiana bayou town, “In the Red and Brown Water” exists simultaneously in two conceptual dimensions.

There’s the 21st century world of Oya (Kilpatrick), a high school track star torn between her college ambitions and the need to care for her ailing Mama Mojo (Peggy A. Blow) and between her affection for the stammering, sweetly devoted Ogun (Dorian Christian Baucum) and the dangerous erotic heat she feels whenever Shango (Gilbert Glenn Brown) comes around her door.

Diarra Kilpatrick and Gilbert Glenn brown in "In the Red and Brown Water"

Diarra Kilpatrick and Gilbert Glenn Brown in “In the Red and Brown Water”

But in another dimension — parallel, yet inseparable — the play is a spiritual struggle that draws on the stories, cosmologies and archetypal gods of the Yoruba people of West Africa, whose legends were transported by slaves to the New World. Virtually all of the play’s 10 characters are named for traditional Yoruba orishas, or spirits: Elegba, the shape-shifting trickster; Shango, god of fire and lightning; Ogun, the deity of iron-working and war.

And Oya, goddess of the Niger River, wind, storms and, as Kilpatrick puts it, “revolutionary transformation.”

“It’s not like ‘Let’s redecorate the house,’ it’s like ‘Let’s tear this [stuff] down! Let’s knock the walls out!'” Kilpatrick explained. “So when Oya comes into your life, people fear her because it means your life is about to change.”

For Kilpatrick, the task was to simultaneously, plausibly portray Oya as a contemporary young woman as well as a force of nature. “This is a girl who listens to Nicki Minaj and Rihanna,” Kilpatrick said. “This is the texture of right now. But yeah, we also carry in our DNA these stories from hundreds and hundreds of years ago.”

In his review, Times theater critic Charles McNulty praised the Fountain’s production, directed by Shirley Jo Finney, as “sensational” and Kilpatrick as “superb.”

Growing up in Detroit, Kilpatrick was taken regularly by her mother to plays, art exhibitions and other cultural events. “Let me just say, if there was a play that was done in Detroit I probably saw it, particularly if it was a black play, and let’s say 95% of them are black plays in Detroit.”

Between ages 12 and 16, Kilpatrick took part in Detroit’s Mosaic Youth Theatre, one of the country’s most accomplished youth theater programs. She also acted at her private college prep school, Detroit Country Day, before moving to the theater program at New York University, where she performed in plays like Suzan-Lori Parks’ “In the Blood” and Stephen Adly Guirgis,’ “Our Lady of 121st Street.”

“I was one of the only black girls who had made it that far who could cuss and make it sound real,” Kilpatrick said, laughing. NYU instructors strongly encouraged her to lose the vestigial Southern accent she’d picked up from her South Carolina-migrant forebears.

Given the realities of casting for African American actors, Kilpatrick said, it’s important to be able to switch accents and speech styles depending on the role. “You don’t want the private school to eat up all the richness of … your flavor. Because no matter what that flavor is, that’s going to be your calling card at the end of the day.”

Kilpatrick came to Los Angeles in 2007. She has appeared in the Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s version of “Three Sisters,” set in Trinidad, and a half-black, half-Mexican transgender male in the Bootleg Theater’s production of Gary Lennon’s “The Interlopers” last year, among other roles.

But getting to play a role like Oya “is a blessing,” especially with this cast and “Shirley Jo at the helm,” she said.

“There aren’t parts like this for black women very often. It’s like Hamlet, it’s like King Lear, it’s Medea. It’s an opportunity to really go in there.”

In the Red and Brown Water  Extended to Feb 24  (323) 663-1525 More

Fountain Theatre’s Acclaimed ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ Extends to Feb 24

LA Premiere Held Over to Celebrate Black History Month

“In the Red and Brown Water” (photo by Ed Krieger)

The Fountain Theatre has extended the Los Angeles premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s lusciously theatrical and boldly original In the Red and Brown Water through the end of February, in honor of Black History Month. Performances will continue through December 16 as previously scheduled, then resume on January 5 for an additional eight weeks through February 24.

Lyrically weaving together elements of urban contemporary realism with West African mysticism, In the Red and Brown Water tells the tale of Oya, who can run faster than anyone—but not fast enough to escape her destiny. Her journey from the promise of youth to the complicated yearnings of womanhood is joyous, raucous, raw and brazenly beautiful.

The Fountain production has been declared “100% Sweet” by Bitter Lemons, a website that aggregates Los Angeles theater reviews, and which, in a rare editorial comment, writes, “Once again, the Fountain Theatre shows that they are the class of Los Angeles theater, big or small… this is simply what theater is meant to be.” The Los Angeles Times raves, “CRITIC’S CHOICE! Beyond the fact that it is sensational, the Fountain Theatre’s production of ‘In the Red and Brown Water’… introduces Los Angeles audiences to a dramatic poet in the process of discovering his singular voice and shows how magnificently one of L.A.’s better small theaters can serve bold new talent.” The LA Weekly agrees, “GO! A visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America,” and Back Stage calls In the Red and Brown Water “a production that explodes in sounds, imagesand extraordinary performances.”

It took the Fountain three years to obtain rights to produce McCraney’s play, which first exploded on the theater scene with a production at New York’s Public Theatre in 2009. On his personal Facebook page, Los Angeles Times Theater Critic Charles McNulty posts, “I love [the Fountain Theatre] production — even more than the one at the Public Theater. LA Theater is not to be underestimated!”

In the Red and Brown Water is helmed by multiple award-winning director Shirley Jo FinneyDiarra Kilpatrick stars as Oya in “a lead performance that is so good you wonder if somehow the designers may have concocted some kind of CGI image in front of your eyes instead of a living breathing human being; her movement, range of emotion and depth of passion is so indescribable that it will literally take your breath away.” (Colin Mitchell, Bitter Lemons). The ensemble also includes Dorian Christian BaucumPeggy A.BlowGilbert Glenn BrownJustin Chu CaryStephen MarshallSimone MissickIona MorrisTheodore Perkins and Maya Lynne Robinson.

Performances of In the Red and Brown Water continue through February 24 on Thursdays (through December 13 only),Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm (dark December 17 through January 4).  Call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.

Recent News from Newspapers is Bad News for LA Theatre

News about print newspapers is now seldom good. And news about newspapers in Los Angeles reducing or cutting theater coverage has now gotten worse. Here it is — the good, the bad, and the ugly:

Back Stage

Last month, Back Stage laid off Dany Margolies, the Los Angeles executive editor and theater editor. Without warning or notice. After eleven years championing the LA theater community, she was told by a young staffer that Back Stage was “restructuring”. Her services were no longer needed. It took her two days to remove more than a decade’s worth of work from her office using the post office tubs they gave her in lieu of storage boxes.

In an open letter to Back Stage readers in October, the new CEO and Chairman,  John Amato, had expressed his excitement about taking over the company, adding “I would like to thank the dedicated, talented, and loyal Back Stage team, whose incredible work has gotten us to where we are today. ”

Three months later he fired Los Angeles theater editor Dany Margolies,  national editor Jaime Painter Young, and other staff members including one in charge of casting notices.

John Amato states the publication is entering a “transformative period” as it moves exclusively to an online digital platform. Print media is fading fast and will soon be gone, going the way of vinyl LP’s.

Of course, if you’ve followed the magazine at all in recent years, the “transformation” at Back Stage is more than about going digital. Back Stage has become another Hollywood Reporter, with more focus and coverage of films, TV shows and movie stars than on the art form it was created to cover in the first place: theater and plays. Back Stage has sold its soul to Hollywood. Someone needs to remind Amato: It’s called Back Stage. Not Back Lot.

Which is why losing Dany Margolies at Back Stage is so painful. LA Theater has lost one of its strongest advocates in that office.

Los Angeles Times

The same week in January that Dany was laid off at Back Stage, it was announced that Lisa Fung, the longtime Online Arts Editor at the Los Angeles Times, had jumped ship to The Wrap,  the entertainment website “covering Hollywood”. Word has it that the new editor making Arts assignments at The Times has meager knowledge of theatre and little familiarity with the many theatre companies in Los Angeles. Not good.

And now the Los Angeles Times has just announced that it will no longer provide online listings for plays, events or venues. It will list only critic’s picks online throughout the week, adding “select listings” and critic’s picks on Sunday. To make it even harder on folks in the LA theater community, the Times now requires that play listings be submitted directly to individual Times reporters and editors, to their personal email addresses. No more “@latimes.com”.  So, if you don’t know Charles McNulty’s personal email address, you’re out of luck. And left out.

LA Weekly

Meanwhile, over at the LA Weekly,  editors decided two weeks ago to reduce the Weekly’s theater coverage even more than it already has in recent years. The Weekly had already eliminated its theater listings. And its former service of running all play reviews for the length of a play’s run.   Now Weekly editors wanted the number of new theater reviews assigned each week to be cut down to six. Six! In a city that averages 20-30 new productions opening each week! It took passionate negotiating by theater writer/editor Steven Leigh Morris to convince the Weekly higher-ups that assigning only six reviews per week was absurd.  A higher number was reached: eight.

Times are tough for print newspapers everywhere. Arts coverage in newspapers is slowly evaporating like an old faded photograph.  The LA Weekly has reduced the size of its print edition and the scope of its theater coverage. Back Stage is going digital.  The Tribune Company, owners of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

We need to understand the impact of technology on the live performing arts.  Technology has emerged as our biggest competitor for leisure time: the average American spends 25.7 hours of leisure watching television or online each week. Internet consumption per person has grown to 14.2 hours per week.  By the time Net-Gen-ers reach their twenties, they will have spent more than 20,000 hours on the Internet and an additional 10,000 hours playing video games.

We are in the middle of a transformation of cultural expression and communication—a realignment that is shaking the newspaper and publishing industries.

So, where’s the good news?

Here: As arts coverage in newspapers declines, theater-related blogs and websites are flourishing like never before. Folks are blogging, posting, tweeting and chatting online about theater — and sending their friends to see plays they “like”. With audiences wielding iPhones, the experience of going to the theater involves more than just seeing a play. Its about sharing the experience with friends.

And Here: More theater is being created and produced in Los Angeles than ever before.  Against all odds, the number of theater artists developing new work in Los Angeles grows. The hopeful urgency of the artists’ need to create and share work with other human beings lives on and still flourishes.

No doubt, these are dark times to be an artist of any kind. In this city, in this country, in this culture.

As theater artists, we can curse the darkness — or light a candle. And in Los Angeles, thousands of theater candles are being lit everywhere, every night, all over this landscape.

Let’s keep our candles burning! Together, we illuminate the world!

Put “Los Angeles” Back into the Los Angeles Times for LA Theatre

by Don Shirley

During the holiday season, the LA Times (aka LAT) demonstrated anew its curiously constricted view of the importance of the other LAT — LA theater.

Charles McNulty

Times theater critic Charles McNulty’s year-in-review roundup included a Top 11 list of theatrical productions, of which only two (Blackbird and Peace in Our Time) were LA-originated. Two other shows on his list, The Cripple of Inishmaan and Let Me Down Easy, were imported by LA area theaters. One Orange County production, Circle Mirror Transformation, also made McNulty’s list.

The other six shows on the list – more than half of the total – included a Canadian import McNulty saw in La Jolla (Jesus Christ Superstar), three shows he saw in New York (The Book of Mormon, The Motherfucker with the Hat and The Normal Heart), and two he saw in London (Luise Miller and One Man, Two Guvnors). McNulty also wrote a separate year-end essay that mentioned other shows, including four LA-originated productions, but they didn’t appear on his Top 11 list.

Whenever a critic tries to cover more than one geographical area in a year-end theater assessment, especially if traveling among the areas involves crossing not only continents but also oceans, I wonder how the critic could possibly have seen enough of the contenders in any one of the areas to make reasonably comprehensive judgments. To be fair to McNulty, it’s true that he wrote that these were the shows that “had me clapping loudest at home and abroad” – not that these were necessarily the best shows in the 2011 theatrical world or even in these particular cities.

Even so, a lot of readers probably assume that the chief LA Times critic reviews or at least sees most of the better LA shows. But it ain’t necessarily so.

RADAR L.A.

I looked up the record of what McNulty wrote about in 2011, courtesy of one of the databases at the LA Public Library. I found 52 reviews of individual theater productions within LA and Orange counties (plus one review at Long Beach Opera and a RADAR L.A. commentary that included brief comments on several shows).

It’s no surprise that he reviewed Center Theatre Group shows more often than those of any other company – a total of 13 in 2011. The surprise about his CTG coverage is that only two of those 13 were at CTG’s flagship venue, the Mark Taper Forum. Four were at CTG’s largest theater, the Ahmanson, while seven were at CTG’s smallest venue, the Kirk Douglas. McNulty wrote about eight productions at Geffen Playhouse and seven at South Coast Repertory. He covered five shows at Broad Stage (all of them imports).

So 33 of his 52 individual theater reviews in Los Angeles and Orange counties took place at those four companies, which are more or less regarded as the “1%” of LA theater by many of the “99%” who work elsewhere in the vast LA theater terrain.

McNulty also spent time in the major San Diego theaters, reviewing five shows at La Jolla Playhouse and four at the Old Globe (plus one at San Diego Rep, which he later re-reviewed when it came to LA).

Oddly enough, McNulty largely avoided one of our major theaters, the Pasadena Playhouse, even though 2011 was the year when it rebounded from bankruptcy. McNulty reviewed only one of the playhouse’s productions, Dangerous Beauty. He ignored the return of the playhouse’s Sheldon Epps as a director in Blues for an Alabama Sky (it opened the same night as the Mark Taper Forum’s Vigil – but McNulty didn’t review Vigil either).

Although 2011 was the year when A Noise Within moved from Glendale to larger digs in Pasadena, McNulty wrote only about the company’s opening show (Twelfth Night) in the new theater, not about the final season of three (better) productions in the former space or the new theater’s second show.

"Small Engine Repair" at Rogue Machine

He didn’t write about any of the four 2011 shows that won the top production honors at last year’s Ovation Awards ceremony (A Raisin in the Sun, Kiss Me Kate, Small Engine Repair, Jerry Springer: the Opera), nor has he has ever written (in his six years at the Times) about Troubadour Theater Company, which won the “best season” Ovation for the second time in three years.

He reviewed no 2011 shows at most of the companies that make up the middle tier of Equity-contracted LA theaters – the Colony, International City Theatre, East West Players, Theatricum Botanicum, Independent Shakespeare, the Falcon, Ebony Rep, Theatre West, Native Voices – nor did he write about anything at the larger musicals-only companies such as Musical Theatre West. He reviewed one production each at Reprise, REDCAT and the Skirball, plus the only Getty Villa production that was open for review in 2011. He wrote about one show each at the larger Pantages and Montalban theaters and at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as Cirque du Soleil’s Iris.

On the small theater (99-Seat Plan) level, he reviewed eight productions, including two at Boston Court and one each at six other venues. That’s eight out of the 371 productions that used the 99-Seat Plan in LA County in 2011, according to tentative figures from Actors’ Equity.       Continue reading