Tue, Aug

LA is a Theatre Town!

BOX SOAP - LA is a theatre town and the Hollywood Fringe is here to bear witness to that fact. As the LA Times fawns [link] over the Tony Awards and offers Angelenos travel advice to Broadway, the Fringe brings it home, delivering a loud and resounding reminder that LA is where it all begins.

Hollywood’s Fringe is America’s largest uncensored arts festival and from June 16-26 it features over 200 productions of theatre, dance, comedy, music, visual art, cabaret, film, workshops and panels in two dozen venues and totaling 1000 performances. Previews run from the 9th to the 14th and June 15th is the Opening Night Party.

The Fringe tradition originated more than 60 years ago when several performing troupes showed up uninvited to the Edinburgh International Festival and took advantage of the large crowds to showcase their alternative theatre. The “fringe element” triumphed and to this day, uncurated Fringe festivals around the world foster a creative environment that challenges the status quo of traditional sponsored theatre.

The LATimes, as if on cue, has jumped into the fray with the announcement of its June 14th panel discussion that tackles the question “Is Los Angeles a “theater town”?” Colin Mitchell, editor of Bitter Lemons, was quick to respond that the biggest thing missing from the panel of luminaries were representatives of LA’s 99 Seat Theatre Community, challenging the notion that the LA Times was capable of actually “tackling” the topic.

The LA Weekly’s Steven Leigh Morris [link] reflected on the folly of the question, "Is LA a Theater Town?" and noted that “The larger issue is a clash of perceptions, not only on what and who is "important", but on how the values espoused by theater leaders, including critics and producers, endorse or challenge the prevailing cultural values.”

All of which has prompted Playwright John Steppling to host a counter-panel to address the issues of LA Theatre, and the Circle of Fringe is complete, traditional media pontificating from the sidelines while the defenders of the art stand up.

The Hollywood Fringe Festival takes place on Hollywood’s Theatre Row, a one-square-mile area of Hollywood, centered on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Fringe Central, 6569 Santa Monica Boulevard, is the hub for the Festival, serving as the central box office and the starting point for performances, parties and panels that are all within walking distance.

The Hollywood Fringe plays host to performers from all over the world, serving as a reminder that LA truly is the center of the creative and innovative universe. It also reminds us that LA is a small town, one filled with a big community of truly talented people who never fail to inspire.

Fringe Director Ben Hill anticipates filling 25,000 theatre seats over the next couple of weeks, and he attributes it to the wide variety of Fringe programming, from Fringe Family that introduces young people to live performance to Fringe [Film] that promises to push the envelope of the film medium.

Rounding out the festival programming is the Fringe Cabaret and the Fringe Disco in the Fringe Beer tent, inspired by the late-night gatherings of Fringe performers who hate to see an empty stage. Through it all, the Fringe Beer Tent and the Fringe Gourmet Food Trucks provide the sustenance necessary for the journey.

With over 1000 performances to pick from, choosing a show can be a bit daunting, but there are several ways to go: Start at HollywoodFringe.org and you can take a look at what’s playing that day, at what’s playing by venue, or what’s getting the great audience responses. Take a look at the FringeMeter at Bitter-Lemons and follow the reviews.

Or...simply head over to Fringe Central and pick up a Fringe Button which will give you discounts to Hollywood’s HotSpots while you wander Theatre Row and pick a show.

As for me, I contend that anyone who’s unsure about LA’s place in the world of theatre should witness the Coeurage Theatre Company’s staging of The Trouble With Words ( http://www.troublewithwords.com/ ) paying special attention to Sarah Phillips as she delivers a performance of “The Ballerina’s Lament” for all the doubters out there.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s official, Los Angeles is a Theatre Town!

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at:              [email protected] .) –cw

Vol 9 Issue 47
Pub: June 14, 2011