The Complex

About a month ago, Enci of Bitter Lemons ( wrote asking for reminiscences from people who played at The Complex. Our production of my play, Sunday Dinner, was way back in 1997 and I had to think about it.

The Complex was bijou. Everything was small, the lobby, the lighting booth, the dressing rooms, the stage. Sunday Dinner took place in a living room (what else, you may ask?) and the stage was the size of one. Perfect. A couple of chairs, a sofa, and a table, and we were home.

We put up our very own sign outside and although everything was pretty clean, we dusted and swept and vacuumed inside. We had a few hitches setting up and our lighting designer began to fret after one of the actresses plugged in her hairdryer, turned it on, and blew the electrical system. However, by opening night, the lights and sound worked like a charm.

There was a narrow dirt alley behind the theater, leading to a chain link fence on Wilcox. Between acts, we could hang out in costume, listening to street noise, and the production in the theater next door. There was a mysterious shack back there, too. I never discovered what it was for.

It was part of the ambiance. There was lots of ambiance. There was walking to rehearsal past the triangular plastic banners above the car lots on Santa Monica Blvd., the feel of the hot sun bouncing up from the sidewalk, the oasis of the corner store where the clerk served us from behind a Plexiglas shield (I think we couldn’t find a place to eat), a fierce fight between two ladies of the street in front of the marquee, the race day and night to find a place to park, the humungous fine one of us got for parking 3-1/2 inches into the red curb, the volatile valet parker we never gave our keys to for fear the car would disappear; and the proximity to The Blank and The Hudson.

We were on Theatre Row.

We didn’t know then how hard we had to push and arm twist, how much we had to plea and cajole to get everyone to come to our absolutely amazing, fabulous, splendid, did we mention?, not to be missed production, so I remember, too, the not so large crowds who made us glad that the space was cozy, comfortable and intimate.

We didn’t sell out but the Complex gave us a great time. And we won a Dramalogue award!

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