Apr 24, 2014

Once More Unto the Breach

Mark Ruffalo and Laurel Green in Justin Tanner's Still Life With Vacuum Salesman at the Cast Theatre, 1994 (photo by Ed Krieger)

I haven't lived in Los Angeles since the summer of 2005 but I've been back many times, I try to keep tabs on what's going on there culturally, and, as I told an editor at Vanity Fair when they asked me recently to write a rebuttal to this much-maligned piece by Jimmy Im, I still consider it in many ways my theatrical hometown. I've touched on my paradoxical formative years as a theatergoer in a movie town at some length before, so this may not be new to many of my readers. But it is likely to be news to many of Vanity Fair's readers, and I'm happy it will get a platform. My nut graf:
The paradox of L.A. theater [is that] nobody seems to know how good it can be and has been, and what great talents are slogging away at it, because of the persistent perception that L.A. is not a theater town. That perception is just plain wrong, though there’s a handy explanation for it. If, by some counts, more stage productions open in L.A. annually than anywhere else in the world, that’s one of the root problems: Too many of those 1,000-plus productions are, admittedly, staged merely as showcases for actors or writers eager for the film industry’s attention (though, as Ruffalo’s story indicates, good luck with that). That actor’s-showcase tendency may not be as prevalent as some people seem to think, but it’s common enough that it’s practically a rite of passage of living in L.A. to be invited by an actor friend to see them do third-rate Sam Shepard in some rat-trap theater with sketchy parking. It's hard to blame Jimmy Im, who recently wrote about the For The Record movie-scene cabaret series did, for assuming that L.A. theater is otherwise “dead.”
You can read the whole VF piece here.

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