Jan 11, 2009

Worst News of the Year

2009 is young but already it's delivering us more shit sandwiches we didn't order. Like this: The LA Weekly has eliminated the Theater Editor position, putting my friend, colleague, and inarguable better Steven Leigh Morris out of a job after 20 years. (Here's his gracious farewell post--they're making him "Critic At Large," and he will produce this year's theater awards, but still.) This is bad news for Steven, who has been an unfailingly kind and collegial comrade (even in disagreement), but even worse news for Los Angeles theater. When I started covering the scene in earnest in the early 1990s, the folks who really knew the L.A. theater scene with any authority were pretty much Don Shirley at the Times and the two Stevens at the Weekly (Morris and his acerbic, astute colleague Mikulan). LA Times stalwarts Sylvie Drake and Dan Sullivan were on their way out, as was Drama-Logue's Lee Melville. In my time heading up Back Stage West and for some time thereafter, that was the bar I aspired to meet, and the company I was proud to keep--people who lived and breathed L.A. theater, knew the scene, had their own takes on it.

Well, I left for the East Coast in 2005; Shirley was bought out of his LA Times post in 2006 (and he hasn't gone away, of course). I guess I'm impressed in this climate that Steven held on as long as he has, and I attribute his keeping the job so long not only to the support of his editors against the cost-cutting imperative of the New Times overlords but to his native strengths as a critic, a thinker, and an advocate for the best in the art in he covered. I've met few writers as thoughtful, in every sense of the word. I hope the Weekly gives him a column and that the L.A. scene thus won't lose yet another (and possibly its best) carrier of institutional memory.

(photo of SLM hosting LA Weekly awards in Ann Closs-Farley's paper suit)

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