There’s Theatre in LA?

I’ve been told for years and years that if you want to do theatre, LA’s not the place to go; that the worst theatre happens in LA; or LA has no theatre; LA’s theatre is just showcases for people who wanna be in film; and other such comments. Have you heard any of this?

I’ve been doing theatre in Los Angeles for a year now and been officially living up here for just over 2 months and I’ve seen so much evidence to the contrary. SO MUCH!

Some time ago I remember some theatre artist saying that they sort of randomly fell into doing theatre out here, because “no one moves to LA to do theatre.” Guess what? I totally did.

Before you start calling me crazy and saying that I violated the laws of physics, let me explain. I had been working for a couple years in Orange County, getting increasingly more bored with life there. Then in fall, I decided that I’d run away and join the circus. To be more specific, I was going to move to San Francisco and study clowning… which would possibly lead to a job in a circus. At the same time I was getting involved with some friends forming a theatre company in Los Angeles. To make a long story short, after a lot of fun times and way too many long commutes to and from LA, I decided that I wanted to be a part of this company full of people I loved, and moved to LA — for theatre.

Turns out LA has plenty of theatre: several hundred companies! Some of them even do good work. So what’s not to like? Yet everywhere I turn, I read things like this:

“If you want to do theatre, move to New York, not that thereโ€™s no theatre here, and a lot of good theatre, but everything is about New York, and people respect New York.”
Interview with Casting Director Howard Meltzer

So people don’t respect LA theatre. Fine. I’m not quite familiar with the New York theatre scene, I’ve only been to NYC once and caught a handful of Broadway shows, but my gut tells me that it’s just a radically different theatre culture. The theaters I saw over there: big. Most of the ones I’ve been to here: small. Besides the few huge companies out here with huge capacities, most of LA theatre is intimate.

It seems to me that people don’t respect LA theatre because they don’t know what the hundreds of companies out here have to offer. With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With more shows being produced, there are more bad shows, but more good ones too! I’m pretty sure that the ratio of bad to good is quite similar to most other theatre towns.

I’ve heard many times that Los Angeles theatre is evolving and starting to find itself. It find its respect for itself. I want to be a part of that.

I attended a panel at the Hollywood Fringe Festival which discussed the subject of Los Angeles’ theatre dynamic and the lack of respect for it…

Perhaps the simplest and most profound way to aid in the evolution of LA theatre is to proudly โ€œidentify yourself as an LA theatre artist,โ€ stressed [Colin] Mitchell. – Ashley SteedLA Theatre Review

Sounds easy enough. I am a proud LA theatre artist. After all, that’s why I moved here.