Do We Really Need Playwrights? Our L.A. Weekly Theater Issue Asks the Question
This week is our annual theater issue, which looks at ensemble-created work -- work that's not written by a playwright typing alone on a computer but created during collaborative rehearsals involving an entire company of actors and directors.
The issue includes an essay from our head theater critic Steven Leigh Morris on the overall phenomenon, plus profiles of three companies who embody this kind of work -- Poor Dog Group, Theatre Movement Bazaar and the Troubadours -- written by Bill Raden and Rebecca Haithcoat. Rebecca also wrote about the chaotic travels of a theater company, charting how Poor Dog over the last year and a half has been constantly racing back and forth from one festival or conference to another.
And, finally, online only is a slideshow from Star Foreman's photo shoot for the issue (note that it's a little racy, and thus not safe for work).
The issue is in honor of our annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards, which takes place on Monday, April 2.
In our outtakes from the issue, two people involved with these companies talked about the most horrifying moments they've experienced during the process:
Jacob Sidney of Theatre Movement Bazaar, about the group's show The Treatment: "There's one [costume change] in particular where, in the middle of a dance, I exit the stage and I'm running down the hall, and I pull off my robe, and Rochelle is back there holding my Khobotov jacket for another character, like a toreador. And I dive into it, and then come onstage and grab the strap from the back and put the button on, and come out and stop the dance. And if I miss that button, then the dance goes on too long. The stakes are incredibly high. Teching it [working out the change during tech rehearsal] felt like a waterfall coming down on top of you. But once we got it down, it's incredibly exhilarating."
Rob Nagle, new to the Troubadour Theater Company, talks about his baptism-by-fire while playing Duncan opposite company ringmaster -- and occasional onstage improviser -- Matt Walker in Fleetwood Macbeth, last year's mash-up of Macbeth and the music of Fleetwood Mac:
"During Fleetwood, at a certain point in the whole "How old are you?" bit, we came to a punch line that was a reliable one, [where I reply] 'I'm so old I used to babysit Yoda.' And that was the end of the bit, and someone was [supposed] to move onto something else. Well, in a particular performance Matt said, 'And how was that, my lord?' And I said, "What do you mean?' He was like, 'How was it? What did you do? How did you babysit Yoda?' And I saw white lights -- and I just started talking.
"I think I talked probably for somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds, riffing back and forth with Matt, but he wouldn't let me go. And it kept getting laughs. It was still funny -- we just went into the improv zone. And he wouldn't let go of it until he finally said, 'This is going off well, considering we've never done this bit before, have we?' And then he released me from it.
"But it was the scariest kind of [pushing] me to the edge and saying, 'You can jump, go ahead and do it onstage in front of these 130 people who have never seen the show before.' He let me run, and it went well, and at the end of it we were like, 'Yeah, that was good. He doesn't have to do it again.' But it was terrifying to make that first step. It was horrifying and exhilarating all at once."