"I don't think we need the Celebration Theatre anymore," opined a critical colleague last night. We were discussing the departure of Celebration artistic director Derek Livingston, and we were standing outside the NoHo Arts Center at the intermission of Angels in America, which was my colleague's Exhibit A. "It's gone mainstream," he concluded.
I happened to run into Sue Hamilton today with her lovely wife and 14-month-old daughter, and she told me that Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is still running at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza. It opened in late October last year. This is heartening proof that men aren't the only gay theatregoing gender that can support a hit run. But given that it's part of a Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner-sponsored program called LIT (for "Lesbians in Theatre"), this doesn't seem to be a case of mainstreaming per se.
It's true that gay-themed plays now turn up with matter-of-fact regularity at several non-gay-identified theatres, from Theater District at the Black Dahlia to Stage Directions at [Inside] the Ford to Leslie Jordan's Like a Dog on Linoleum at Elephant Asylum. But I wouldn't rush to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If the Celebration and the Village can no longer claim exclusive rights to all plays gay, so much the better. But providing a home for gay- and lesbian-identified playwrights, directors, performers, and, yes, audiences remains a valuable service in principle and in practice. Have important plays and artists been nurtured by such venues who otherwise might not have the careers they have today? I think Tom Jacobson, Guillermo Reyes, Mark Savage, and Patricia Cotter (off the top of my head) would say so.
And after all, in L.A.'s sprawling, never-shrinking theatre scene, the operating philosophy seems to be the more the merrier, the greater the gayer.