By Jen Huszcza
Hello everyone, I’m delighted to be back blogging on the LAFPI website. I want to begin my blog week by talking about a theatre event I attended back in May, so I’m setting the blogging time machine back (wayyyy back) to May 18th and LA Stage Day.
LA Stage Day was a one day event put on by the LA Stage Alliance and dedicated to theatre in LA. It was held on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles on a bright and sunny Saturday.
To summarize: I went and I had fun.
I found out the event needed volunteers, and the volunteers could get in free if they volunteered three hours of their time. Sweet. I thought. Sign me up.
The volunteer email said that I would have to pay $6 for on campus parking, but some clicking on LA’s Metro website showed me that I could take the Expo line from West Los Angeles and connect with the Silver Line in downtown LA all for just $5 for a day pass. It turned out that the Silver Line was a bus that had its own special bus lane next to a freeway. Yes!
After being greeted and given a black T-shirt (theatre people definitely came up with the color scheme), I sat with other volunteers and explained twitter to folks. It’s cool really, it is.
As volunteers, we had to set up the rooms for two workshops. We could stay for whatever workshop we were at or go to something else once everyone was settled.
The first workshop that I helped set up was called Learning to Love the Arts, and it was conducted by Abe and Charley from Arts for LA, a nonprofit which advocates for all arts (not just theatre) in LA. By the way, Charley is a poet. Along with playwriting, poetry is one of the writing forms most likely to get the reaction, you do what?
Just as I was helping Abe and Charley set up in the lobby of the theatre, a playwriting workshop showed up to be in the theatre space. For most of the Arts Advocacy workshop, I had to quietly herd the playwrights into the theatre. Playwrights are so needy when they’re confused—like lambs off to slaughter.
The Arts Advocacy workshop was about changing the narrative of how arts is talked about and how all art is vital not only culturally but economically as well. What do you say to someone who says artists should get real jobs? How do you turn that conversation into something positive?
After their workshop was over, I congratulated Abe and Charley on a job well done and was able to snag some handouts from the playwriting workshop. Jon Dorf and Dan Berkowitz (of ALAP fame) had done the playwriting workshop. I had seen them talk before, and they usually had excellent handouts.
The second workshop was going to be on social media and the rehearsal process. The three guys moderating were two guys from SDC and Michael Michetti of Boston Court. The two guys from SDC were east coast based, and you could tell they were loving on the Cali sunshine.
I helped them arrange the chairs into a circle because they wanted to do a discussion, and slowly folks trickled in and started to talk. Apparently, Actors Equity recently loosened its restrictions on videotaping, and this has left other guilds scrambling to come up with some way of drawing a line about taping.
Additionally, theatre companies tape rehearsals and parts of productions to promote their shows online, and there was a discussion about how intrusive that was in the rehearsal space.
Meanwhile, as we were discussing whether taping was intrusive, a girl with a video camera came by to tape us discussing, and the workshop took on a post-post modern vibe.
What I also really liked about the discussion was that there were lots of different people in the room. There were actors, directors, stage managers, producers, playwrights. We all could sit down and discuss something from our different points of view and find common ground. I think this is how politics use to work.
After that session, I went over to take a melodrama acting workshop with Debbie McMahon of the Grand Guignolers. The blurb in the program said that non-actors were invited to come and participate. After herding playwrights and sitting and thinking, I was anxious to get up and move around.
True to its name, the workshop was MELODRAMA!!! (apologies for the caps and explanation points, I’m going for feel). Yes, there was highly dramatic music (think silent films). Yes, we were allowed to make big gestures in extreme situations. Yes, I crossed the pit of molten lava on a rickety bridge, and let me tell you, it was terrifying.
I was physically exhausted when I left the workshop, so I caught a bus back.
Basically, I went to three sessions, but there plenty more at LA Stage Day. There was a courtyard filled with information tables and plenty of socializing events.
I liked the idea of folks volunteering and getting in for free. I thought it opened up the range of people who were there. Besides, as a volunteer, I got a really cool t-shirt and some cookies. Yes, I will volunteer for cookies.
I hope the LA Stage Alliance puts on another LA Stage Day. LA is a giant sprawl, and the theatre community is very spread out, so it was nice to experience the LA theatre community all in one place even if it was just for one day.