On July 7th, 2020 I sent the first email of three to LA Stage Alliance after I received a forwarded email that was meant to be sent out to members only. As I read the attached letter it seemed to be a letter welcoming discussion, feedback, and opinions – so I sent mine. I never heard back from anyone and this, to me, reflected a lack of resources and a broken system. A system that was not able to hear a wide array of voices nor did it seem to be accessible to share information nor learn more about our expansive theatre community from another perspective.
For the past four years I have been studying, researching, writing, debating + discussing the state of American theatre with a focus on the Los Angeles theatre community. The question I am always left with to ask is: How did a craft that relies so heavily on community and interconnectedness become exclusive? How do we actively create an accessible, available theatre community that makes room for all theatrical talent in Los Angeles to lend their voices to a new American Theatre?
I will say that Independent theatre artists engage in the very act of doing their own work by any means necessary. The very act of self-producing and finding a venue to present their work breaks traditional theatre hierarchies that have been kept exclusive by “Gatekeepers” – and let it be known these “Gatekeepers” are not only affiliated with predominantly white institutions. Power and control manifest themselves in subtle ways and we must beware of their foul intentions in all its many forms and faces. Yet, is there not a way to bridge the gap between academic theatre artists and grassroots theatre artists? Can we find a way to build a theatre community that makes room for trajectory and growth for all local theatre artists? How can we build a community of consistency, where grassroots artists can produce a play at The Complex or The Lounge and have it supported to the next level? It is time we, with love, in love, hold any organization or movement accountable that decides to take on the leadership role of representing the LA theatre community. There should be no lack of transparency nor should there be any fear in holding any organization accountable when it comes to representing the multi-faceted Los Angeles theatre community. It can be easy and engrained to uplift the same voices and ideas but let us not go back to normal and the familiar. Instead, let us honor what time has made way for, and may we rise up together for – a new and better way to build a representative theatre community.
I pose these concerns because I love theatre and I love all the artists I have collaborated with, encountered at theatre shows, as well as the artists I have witnessed on stage, in a variety of performance theatre spaces that often go overlooked. I pose these questions as a form of ritual that is sacred when creating theatre. What does community mean? What does it mean to bridge divides within a community? I always have to go back to Bell Hooks: that empowerment, that activism, that information must be accessible in order for change to truly occur on any level in a community.
Now that LASA has disbanded we find ourselves as a community in ripe times that are not to be taken lightly. We should all be welcoming a fresh slate to the changing and widening landscape that exists in our Los Angeles theatre community. May we lift our voices, show our faces and fight for the type of equity we wish to see in Los Angeles. Can we welcome new ideas, bold actions, and brave visionaries to lead us into creating a powerful, thrilling, and inclusive theatre community? I know we can and are. The time is now.
There is a Town Hall for the LA Theatre community being hosted by a fantastic group, the Joy Jackson Initiative. (There is also a Community Jamboard for members to include their dreams, wishes, hopes, and ideas. You can Click Here to add your voice.) The community meeting will occur on April 13th, 2021 at 6pm PT – TOMORROW!
Link for registering for the Town Hall:
The email I sent to LA Stage Alliance:
“My name is Constance Strickland. I am Creative Director of Theatre Roscius, an experimental theatre company.
My reason for emailing today is due to my concern over the future of LASA + Ovation Awards.
It is a wonderful gift the Ovation Awards has celebrated L.A Theatre for 45 years but I’m truly concerned about how it excludes half of our Los Angeles Theatre community if you are an Independent Theatre Artist your work goes overlooked. This precedent that has been set ignores half of the Los Angeles Theatre Community and cheats us all of being truly connected and there is no real gage of the wide depth of talent existing in our city. For we all do the work for the love of theatre. We all honor storytelling and understand our theatre lineage must be rooted together if we are truly to build a New American Theatre Theatre for our city.
I hope as the Ovation team takes time away. I hope you see that patterns have occurred with many voices left out. That Los Angeles Theatre has many faces and we all win when artists of all backgrounds, Union or Non-Union are lifted up and welcomed into the L.A theatre community. When a widespread of BIPOC and Independent Theatre Artists of Color are being seen, being really supported then we need not have issues of space rental, membership fees, equity debates. There is no elitism and new work can continue to be developed on high levels to be shared and supported because there is acceptability. For we all know we have an unlimited amount of talent right here in our own front yard.
May the Ovation Team enter the next 45 years as visionaries who have the fortitude to see a new and broader Los Angeles Theatre Community that is not separated- instead is interconnected.”
Thank you-Have a powerful week,