And Another Thing: Theater Joke Countdown #5-3

The end is near: Here are three more installment in the seemingly neverending series. Enjoy. 5. Q: How many non-union stagehands does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: Two. One to hold it and the other to hammer it in. 4. A theatrical agent is walking down Broadway late one night when he […]

After a Fringe binge, the postmortem begins

Overheard Sunday night at the Hollywood Fringe: “We had about 12 (in the audience). Not bad!” And everything being relative, it wasn’t bad. An even dozen was my count at Theatre Asylum earlier in the evening when I started my Fringe binge with Sam Shepard’s Cowboy Mouth – although three of us were from […]

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

They don’t call them “fringe” festivals for nothing. With titles like I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I’m Afraid to Tell You, the 2011 Hollywood Fringe looks packed with theatrical land mines. One misstep and…kabloowie! Take the LA-based comedy trio Sound & Fury’s Spaceship Man, a simply ghastly 70 minutes of self-indulgence that makes water-boarding […]

Earnest rock & roll Jesus with a cowboy mouth wants more in the rock dept

  Cowboy Mouth, written by Sam Shepard with assistance from Patti Smith at the Chelsea Hotel in NYC in 1971, presents their love affair writ in metaphor in a one-act play that rocks, or in this case, should rock. Slim (Shepard character) is obsessively drawn to Cavale (Smith character), who hijacks his secret fantasy of […]

Twist: A review–and a musical–in progress

Pasadena Playhouse calls Twist a new musical. But the Prohibition era, New Orleans-set permutation of Oliver Twist actually has been in development since the ‘90s. Back then, I caught a promising fully staged version at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and was intrigued to see how it has evolved, now under the directorial/choreographic supervision […]

Let’s Put On A Show: ‘Re-Animator’ and DIY Theater

Last night, I witnessed a beheading, a few murders and a couple of accidental deaths.  Bloody entrails, too, including an unraveled intestine that squirted blood all over me. I never believed these gory acts were real (though I do hope the fake blood will come out of my clothes).  Still, I won’t soon forget seeing […]

Oh, and there’s another show in town…

There are several popular mythologies about theater audiences. Some people say that big splashy tours build general excitement for in theater, theoretically increasing interest in events like RADAR L.A. and Hollywood Fringe. But a quick poll of people attending “Les Miserables” at the Ahmanson Theater on Sunday paints a different picture. Or maybe it’s just a marketing issue…

Podcast debate: ‘The Last Five Years’

It’s the battle of the sexes, waged over the Jason Robert Brown musical The Last Five Years. Cathy and Jamie meet cute, fall in love, get married and then fall apart. But who is to blame for their unhappily-ever-after? Help Engine 28 decide. Take our poll The Last Five Years, Hollywood Fringe Festival. Through June […]

Is There Life After the Fringe? (Video Interview)

In Summer “Rain” Sinclair’s Born Again Bohemian, a personal story of shedding parental baggage, the playwright’s mom dismisses the absence of Sinclair’s hippie-dippie dad, saying, “We have plans for our life, Summer, and they don’t include him.” Eventually, the plans of a grown-up Sinclair do include the man she calls Dadio. And after her Hollywood […]

Riveting Talk Breaks the Locks in La Razón Blindada

Inspired by the experience of playwright/director Aristides Vargas’ brother, a political prisoner of the Argentine dictatorship, La Razon Blindada (“Armored Reason”) is an extraordinary meditation on the endurance of human creativity in the face of hopelessness. In Rawson prison, a desolate Patagonian pen where the government stashed anyone who dared question the status quo, inmates […]

We bring you the following disruption

They Came from the Metro. Stumbling like refugees from an apocalyptic zombie play off the Fringe, late-night riders on the Red Line had to grope their way through a tunnel to the next functioning train. An “equipment issue,” which disabled a train between Hollywood/Western and Hollywood/Vine, delayed travelers for upward of 20 minutes after midnight […]

Arab spring comes to Los Angeles’ theater festival summer

  Theatre Communications Group went bold when it scheduled Mona Eltahawy to open its 50th annual conference, which closed Saturday in Los Angeles.  The Egyptian-American columnist is a mainstay read for those following the tectonic shifts of Middle East nations beyond the headlines. But for theater professionals? It’s safe to say more than one head […]

Blood Brothers

LA’s got the big-time comedy thing going–Groundlings, ImprovOlympic, Second City, etc. Places like that can break big-time careers. More modest in scope is Cold Tofu, an improv troupe that features a cast of exclusively Asian Americans. My brother, Steve Brady, is the company’s sole Caucasian, a comedy writer and commercial actor who keeps up his […]

Spring Awakening: What’s in a Song? Or The Franzen Factor

Back when the musical version of Spring Awakening was still finding it’s footing on Broadway, author Jonathan Franzen published a new translation of Frank Wedekind’s original 1891 German play. In his introduction to the 2007 volume, Franzen excoriates the musical adaptation, calling it “insipid,” “overpraised,” and sullied by “a dense modern fog of sentimentality and […]

Paul F. Tompkins Takes to the Stage to Take to the Air

Join us as we return to the thrilling days of yesternight! Paul F. Tompkins is on the air! Or, as the articulate indie-age interlocutor puts it himself, “It is once more nighttime on the internet.” Paul F. Tompkins isn’t the sort of measured performer treasured by golden age radio producers. His material is manic: contemplative […]

TVK: Outrageous and appealingly smarty-pants

Tüte Voller Kinder: Seizure No. 1 is the short subject screening before Pure Shock Value at Fringe Central. Sample random quote from a scattershot variety spoof that has everything in its gun-sights: “If I could go back and not shoot your mom in the head, I would.” Creators Jason Lind and C. Honett attack their comic […]

A Chorus of Anticipation at TCG Registration

Reconnections. Diversity. Resources. These were the buzzwords at the Biltmore Hotel as the TCG convened its 50th anniversary confab Thursday. Attendees signed in from all corners of the country. Engine28’s Martin Brady strolled from lobby to lounges to ask: “What’s REALLY on your mind?”

Working Out Working-Class Drama

The Indiscreet Charm of the Proletariat, or Why I Don’t Buy the Blue Collar Blues Last night I went with my friend Stacy Highsmith, an actress transplanted here two years ago from New York, to the Ruskin Group Theatre at the diminutive Santa Monica Municipal Airport, which looks untouched from the Howard Hughes era. We’d […]

A Theater Marketer’s Rant

Alli Houseworth, marketing director for Washington’s Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, achieved an odd distinction at the TCG conference: She was able to redirect the conversation in two sessions by voicing her objections to panel discussions on Twitter. And even though one might think the mere fact that Twitter influenced the discussions is a sign that […]

Julie Taymor Says: Don’t Tweet On Me

“We are her family,” Theatre Communications Group’s Philip Himberg cautioned the audience of several hundred members. “Please respect that she’s with her family.” Saturday afternoon, director Julie Taymor headlined the national conference’s Closing Keynote in a highly-anticipated conversation with scholar Roger Copeland. There were no photos or video allowed, but Taymor used the event to […]

And Another Thing: Theater Joke Countdown #6

An actor is in bed with a woman when her Hollywood agent husband walks in. “What have you been doing?” screams the agent. “Well,” says the actor, “I just did a CSI and I’m doing a play in Sudio City. If you’re not busy this weekend, I can put aside a pair of tickets.” — […]

5 Things: Chelfitsch

In Chelfitsch: Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech at RADAR L.A., the actors perform in Japanese with English subtitles, often to great comic effect. As office workers discuss everyday topics – a farewell lunch for a colleague, or the climate control system – their choreographed movements are incongruous, to the point of a […]

5 Reasons Why L.A. Theatre Works Deserves More Serious Recognition

What should be one of the best-known theater companies in America doesn’t seem to ever come up in discussions of outstanding theaters. And if I were a Vegas oddsmaker (and if Vegas oddsmakers cared about theater) I’d call its chance of winning a regional theater Tony any time in the near future a longshot. I’m […]

Pure Shock Value rocks Hollywood Fringe [Film]

All around the TCG conference and concurrent festivals, theater people are voicing questions and concerns about the viral encroachment of media into theater. Speculation on eventual outcomes abounds.  Into the fray comes the Furious Theatre Company – premiering a movie. So from the get-go, Pure Shock Value is about as encroached as it gets. Film was the […]

Guillermo Calderon Explains Neva’s Unconventional Lighting

Teatro en Blanco’s Neva was the first show I saw in this week’s Radar LA festival, and still my favorite of the seven I’ve seen so far. Guillermo Calderón’s script is an extraordinary homage to Chekhov that takes in the playwright, the injustice of Czarist Russia, the disappointment of the revolution and the whole endeavor […]

What Is Radar LA About?

It worked for the Fringe, so let’s try this for the other big festival in town. Above are the most common words in the descriptions of all the shows in Radar LA.

5 Things: Mistakes New Theater Companies Make

Thinking about launching your very own theater? Here’s some sound advice from Reginald Nelson, author of How to Start Your Own Theater Company and co-founder of Congo Square Theatre in Chicago.

The Hollywood Fringe 1-woman show picker

Out of 91 theater works in this year’s Hollywood Fringe, 19 are one-woman shows. How to pick the ones to see? This flowchart can help you narrow your choices. Choose a topic of interest from the tabs down the left margin and proceed from there. Let us know what you end up choosing!

‘Born Again Bohemian’: Fatherless Child Saves Herself

If you’ve ever tried to drain the poison of your childhood, or even if you just enjoy a bit of ballet and a turquoise boa, you should find something to like in “Born Again Bohemian.” Summer “Rain” Sinclair admits her one-woman Hollywood Fringe Festival show is a work in progress. But as it evolves, this […]

Michael Jackson, Obama and Identity – podcast

During his visit to Engine28, Ralph Remington, National Endowment for the Arts‘s Director of Theater and Musical Theater, made this audio recording of his essay, “Michael, Obama and Post-Racial Deconstruction,” originally published in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. An Engine 28 exclusive! is partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The thoughts […]

NEA’s Ralph Remington on Race – podcast

Ralph Remington, the Director of Theater and Musical Theater at the National Endowment for the Arts, stopped by the Engine28 offices to check out the newsroom activity. We took a few minutes to exchange views on the state of African-American and Asian-American theater, among other topics. Here’s Remington on African-American History Month, President Obama, Stanley Kowalski, […]

Engine28 Quiz: Comedy or Theatre?

Peruse the Hollywood Fringe Festival program and you’ll find productions organized into categories like “Cabaret and Variety,” Musicals and Operas,” and “Events.” They seem self-evident until you consider some of the descriptions in the “Comedy” and “Theatre” sections. Headscarf and the Angry Bitch is described as a “…hilarious hour of story and song.” How Did […]

Gay, Black and Kind of Funny

Christmas In Bakersfield, playing at Comedy Sportz as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, will disappoint if you’re looking for the big gift but it’s a perfect stocking stuffer. Les Kurkendaal’s one-man show details the true story of meeting his boyfriend’s conservative white parents who know their son is gay but don’t know his boyfriend […]

What Is the Fringe About?

Wondering what the shows are all about? Above, the most common words in the Hollywood Fringe Festival program. Apparently the shows are hilarious solo musical comedies about love, family, friends and America.

5 Things about RADAR Festival’s Titus Redux by The New American Theatre & Not Man Apart

5 responses to the question, ” What was the most visually arresting scene in Titus Redux?  1 Kerry Engel (of engine28), a reviewer for The Arizona Republic:   “The best was the rape and murder as leapfrog scene.” *** 2 Walter Ryce (of engine28), staff writer at Monterey County Weekly: “I thought the choreographed dance-rape scene was […]

The Car Plays: Jersey Turnpike

As a Jersey girl, I’ve heard all the obsessive talk comparing our car culture to that of L.A. Our traffic jams are longer! Our vehicles are bigger! You call those potholes? After seeing five vignettes at Moving Arts’ “The Car Plays” at REDCAT, though, it occurred to me that this environmental piece devised by Paul […]

5 Things about Ground to Cloud and 5 Things about Myth and Infrastructure

A hot ticket RADAR Festival Breakout session features  Ground to Cloud presented by Christine Marie & Ensemble and Myth and Infrastructure by Miwa Matreyek 5 Things about Ground to Cloud 1  It’s a light & shadow dance-drama. 2  It’s spiced up with a bit of menace. 3 It’s proof that a lot can be done with old tech. […]

And Another Thing: Theater joke countdown #7

How many theater directors does it take to change a light bulb? None. She gives a note to the stage manager to fix it. — Look for more theater jokes soon. That’s a threat. —Lou Harry=

Devised Theatre: A Director’s Perspective

In the production As you are now so once were we (previously staged at Ireland’s National Theater, The Abbey, and Dublin’s Absolut Fringe Festival), large cardboard boxes are stacked and unstacked, hoisted and pushed across the stage. And they’re used as props (doors, beds, tables), as the actors illustrate and re-create one day from four […]

A Prisoner’s Meal Fit for an Audience

One of the performances slated this week for RADAR L.A. is  State of Incarceration, political theater from the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD). The work explores and tells stories about living conditions in California state prisons.  In the next few days, we’ll have a related profile piece, a review of the show, and a video […]

5 Things: Playwriting Tips from Marsha Norman

Marsha Norman’s TCG playwriting workshop, “Secrets of the Great Play,” was attended by nearly 100 participants this afternoon, including eminent playwrights Philip Kan Gotanda and Deborah Laufer. Here’s Norman (night, Mother) on: Story: “The audience only cares about stories that ask questions they are wondering about right now. You don’t ask directions to a place […]

Another Voice on “The Method Gun”

So maybe you watched us debating the merits of The Method Gun. And maybe you thought, “you know what would make this conversation better? A tiger.” Rude Mechs are happy to oblige: There are more.

To video or not to video, that is the question

If anyone knows where technology is taking the age-old art of live performance, they must have come here in a time machine. But one thing seems certain: Video is becoming a more and more important element in theater. The important question is, in what ways? That’s one of the (many, many) things on my mind […]

Director piggybacks promotion with TCG video jacket

In the jam-packed week of Theaterpalooza, Unbound Productions’ co-artistic director Jonathan Josephson knew he would need a way to catch people’s attention for the short run of his company’s update of Mark Twain’s “A Ghost Story.” So he thought of the TCG conference theme – “Why not?” – and commissioned a fully-wired jacket with a […]

McLennan talks; Twitter responds

Arts and social media guru Douglas McLennan addressed the Theatre Communications Group conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 16 in a talk titled “The Community Formerly Known as the Audience: Who They Are, What They Are, What to do About It.” McLennan invited responses to the live-streamed conversation from Tweeters in the room and […]

The Projects and Proposals Poker Game

The Projects and Proposals session of the Radar L.A. conference Thursday morning was like watching a friendly game of cards, except some of the friends had jobs and dreams at stake. Eight large ornate round tables were set up in a Biltmore hotel ballroom, tournament style. Folks sat at each table, expectantly shuffling papers they’d […]

And Another Thing…: Theatre Joke Countdown #8

A couple is thrilled to be taking their seats for The Book of Mormon. Next to the man and woman, though, is an empty seat. “This is the hottest show in town,” the guy says just before curtain. “I can’t believe someone is wasting a ticket.” The show begins. It’s hilarious. But all the guy […]

Help me help you: a theater critic’s appeal

As much as is a theater journalism blitz, it’s also an experiment. As reporters, we want to figure out how to make our work more useful to those who read/watch/listen to/consume it. Even the toughest critics among us are in it for the love of the game (it certainly isn’t for the big bucks) […]

On RADAR: Actor Clayton Farris

Los Angeles guy Clayton Farris is an actor who’s appeared at REDCAT, but his talents are being put to other uses during RADAR L.A. He’s been bartending, coordinating meals and shepherding folks around the festival. Not a lot of spare time to see shows, either, but he’s determined to get to the Rude Mechs’ “The […]

The Shows of the Hollywood Fringe, Mapped

The Hollywood Fringe Festival opened last night, kicking off frantic blast of performance. With 215 shows in 10 days, the Fringe crams as much theater into just over a week as happens in my hometown—Portland, Ore.—in an entire year. Remarkably, very nearly all of the productions are from southern California, making the topic of Tuesday’s […]

Two-Gun Method

I’m a Method Gun glutton. I saw the Rude Mechs troupe when they came to New Haven four months ago. Last week I flew clear across the country and, amid oodles of other theatergoing delights, I sought the show out again. It’s an intoxicating piece, a sort of post-modern American Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead, […]

Manifesto Moments

Shawn Sides, Raelle Myrick Hodges, Guillermo Calderon and Richard Montoya delivered manifestos during Radar LA’s The Future of Theater panel moderated by Mark Valdez, national coordinator for Network of Ensemble Theaters. Here are some of their words envisioning the future of this art form: Shawn Sides, Co-Producing Artistic Director of Rude Mechs “My manifesto for […]

And Another Thing: The two Mark Russells

We’re hearing a lot this week about RADAR L.A. co-director Mark Russell…not to be confused with political humorist and PBS stalwart Mark Russell. Since such confusions are increasing likely in a Googled world, we at Engine28 supply the following as a helpful guide to differentiating the two: RADAR’s Mark Russell can often be found at […]

5 Things: Diane Rodriguez on why L.A. is a theater town

Diane Rodriguez, the co-curator of RADAR L.A. and associate producer and director of new play production at Center Theatre Group, had a minute to spare between bids for her attention shortly following her “Current Programs” address at LATC. During a quick encounter in the lobby — which teemed with RADAR festival-goers and stacks of boxed […]

And Another Thing…Theatre Joke Countdown #9

An architect, a surgeon, and a theater’s props manager are brought together for an experiment focused on the spatial-cognitive processes of intellectuals in various professions. Each specialist is taken into an isolation booths, completely from from external stimuli. Each booth contains a trio of baseball-sized metal balls. The booths are then sealed off. After two […]

5 Things: Great Lines from Teatro en Blanco’s Neva

There’s a lot of great language in Teatro en Blanco’s Neva, which plays this week at Radar LA (see Kerry Lengel’s rave here). Here are five of my favorite passages from Guillermo Calderón’s script, in my own, likely inaccurate translation.

Shut up and do the work

A panel of very smart and talented theater professionals asked — and very quickly answered — the question, “Is LA a theater town?” last night. The very idea of this panel apparently spurred an insistent murmur of discontent among the great unwashed of the LA theater world, sentiments that didn’t raise to the surface at […]

Theater in Unusual Nooks, Crannies and Ballrooms

Forget dessert. How about a gilded ballroom full of body-based performances inspired by machines? That’s not what I had in mind when I went to dinner at The Gorbals in the lobby of the Alexandria Hotel, but the signs reading “Anatomy Riot” enticed some Engine 28 folks and me enough to wander upstairs into a […]

And Another Thing …: Filling in the Beth Henley Blank

During the Culture Monster-hosted “Is L.A. a theater town?” conversation on June 14 (see live-blog here), playwright Beth Henley and producer Marc Platt talked about a recent play of Henley’s directed by a “Hollywood director.” Since they were clearly indicating that the situation was not a positive one, they refrained from naming names. We have […]

And Another Thing…: Theater Joke Countdown #10

Q: How many L.A. actors does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: One hundred and one. One to climb the ladder and screw in the bulb and the other hundred to say “That should be me up there.” Look for #9 soon. –Lou Harry

And Another Thing…: Is L.A. a Theater Town?

Perhaps the organizers of the “Is L.A. a Theater Town” panel discussion were being a bit presumptuous. No, I’m not talking about the big theaters/little theaters controversy reported here. I’m talking about the assumption that Los Angeles is the only town with the initials L.A. What about Los Alamos, New Mexico? Or….okay, what about Los […]

And Another Thing…: How Far Flung is LA Theater?

Yes, Los Angeles County has a far-flung theater community. But how far does it fling? Well, depending on your route, there are 30 miles of road separating Boston Court Theatre in Pasadena and Pacific Resident Theater in Venice. For our New York friends, that’s about the distance from JFK Airport to Newark Airport. (And for […]

Begging the Question

The LA Times’ Culture Monster session Tuesday evening about local theater – Is Los Angeles a Theater Town? – was fascinating to an outsider (Philadelphian) who knows the stage scene here enough to understand that the question seems to come from Mars. Why, though, did the panel first dismiss the question as one that begs […]

Forget about the NEA: theater companies plan for the worst

The non-profit Theater Communications Group made it to 50 years old at a moment when long-standing models for arts funding (government grants, foundation giving) are drying up, seriously calling into question if non-profit theater will even exist in another 50 years. Folks at the conference are supposed to brainstorm around “What If…” Meanwhile, DC’s Arena […]

Know before you go: “Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and The Farewell Speech” Chelfistch

Office work will suck out your soul.  It will assign you a uniform; it will force you into a square dance of empty social interactions; it will try your patience until you blurt out a string of intimate confessions, sending you on your way with a useless parting gift.  And then, you’re unemployed again. In […]

90% of the theater scene, but too small to be noticed

As a journalist from out of town, I arrived in LA last weekend with hopes of boning up on previews of the upcoming theaterpalooza (four festivals in two weeks). But I found the newspaper of record was more interested in the Tonys (based in the town I’d just come from). Don Shirley of says […]

Can LA handle the “greatness thrust upon it”?

The rap on LA theater is that there isn’t much. And what there is just serves as a vehicle for film actors trying to get their big break. Not so, argues LA Weekly’s Steven Leigh Morris.  He soundly refutes that assumption with a short history of LA theater (a must-read for all out-of-towners squatting here […]