It’s a harsh reality that the theatre community will be hard-pressed to weather the current political upheavals and economic downturn. But agile Southern California theatres pivoted their offerings to fit into new pandemic realities. Dramatists were able to find community and comfort by embracing technology. Thanks to Zoom, writers’ groups old and new became a lifeline for dramatists throughout the region. Examples include, among many others, Antaeus Theatre Company, Breath of Fire, Playwrights Project, and Orange County Playwrights Alliance.
San Diego Repertory particularly embraced the new digital reality, streaming a production of Aaron Posner’s JQA and the 2020 San Diego REP Latinx New Play Festival, helmed by PATRICE AMON, which featured four new plays by Latinx playwrights. They also recorded a streaming version of Herbert Siguenza’s An Evening with Picasso.
Hero Theatre, led by Elisa Bocanegra, collaborated with Oregon Shakespeare Festival for a workshop reading of Twelfth Night by Alison Carey for their ongoing Play On! project. They also presented Hands Of Color by company member Nubia Monks, and are now commissioning new plays via a series called Nuestro Planeta, slated to stretch over ten years.
Jesus A. Reyes, who leads the Education and Community Partnerships team at Center Theatre Group, nurtured Community Stories, a collection of newly generated works that strive to reflect the style and points-of-view of local artists. In partnership with The Getty Villa in Malibu, CTG also presented The Greek Trilogy of Luis Alfaro, streaming until January 20, 2021.
East West Players kicked off their 55th season with musician AJ Rafael‘s holiday edition of Crazy Talented Asians, a concert celebrating Asians in the arts. It will be the first offering on their stage since Los Angeles theatres shut down earlier this year. In December, the show was filmed at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo for broadcast on YouTube.
In June and July, under the leadership of literary team Jaisey Bates and ZHARIA O’NEAL, Playwrights’ Arena, (L.A.’s leading new play incubator focusing exclusively on L.A. playwrights), presented ten original plays in ten weeks via Zoom. The success of their Summer Reading Series happily demonstrated the diversity of L.A. playwrights and the depth and breadth of stories being told in the region.
In August, Playwrights’ Arena partnered with the Los Angeles LGBT Center. MARCH, conceived by Playwrights’ Arena Artistic Director Jon Lawrence Rivera, was a futurist political drama about three Transgender, non-conforming women of color. On October 17, MARCH opened in the underground parking garage of the LGBT Center and became the first production performed live to an audience safely watching from their car windows and listening through their radios. The Los Angeles Times called it “stirring, vivid and compelling.”
As we wait to share our work in person again, it’s inspiring to see how much continues to be done during the pandemic pause. The imaginative use of technology fueled by our ongoing need to connect has kept the ghost light on.