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 referring to L.A. Theatre Works (www.latw.org), a company that, without sets, without costumes, with scripts-in-hand and with actors never making eye contact with each other, creates audio theater in front of live audiences—and makes those recordings available to libraries, schools, radio listeners and buyers.

Why is LATW a must-visit whenever I’m in L.A.? And why do I think it should be considered one of the most important theaters in the U.S.? Here are five reasons:

1. A Broad Range of Offerings. This year, LATW presented Enron, A Raison in the Sun, Becky Shaw, School for Scandal and more. In 2011/12, the ten-show lineup includes A Doll House, Copenhagen, Rhinoceros and Frost/Nixon along with lesser-known works including Michael Hollinger’s Opus and Itamar Moses’ Completeness. Of course, an interesting schedule alone doesn’t an outstanding theater company make. It’s got to have…

2. High Quality. I only get there once every year or two. But in my five visits to LATW, I’ve yet to be disappointed. In fact, Four out of five times, I left exhilarated. The other time it was merely very good. (Okay, so I wasn’t crazy about my sixth LATW encounter—a national tour where the purity of the script-in-hand form was compromised by excess movement, making it feel like a stumble-through rehearsal with actors still on book). Still, high-quality work, in a vacuum, isn’t really enough to be a great company. It also has to have…

3. Wide Reach. LATW’s work may not lead to Broadway or London, but it does reach millions of radio listeners, thousands of libraries, and hundreds of schools. The chances of me getting an opportunity to see a well-cast production of Awake and Sing, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, or Tartuffe are pretty slim. But thanks to LATW, I have access to these and many other works. These are even more appealing given that they feature…

4. Top Theater Talent. Roger Rees, Cherry Jones, Raul Esparza, Stacey Keach, Judith Ivey…the list of highly praised LATW theater actors goes on and on. And, of course, some of them are…

5. Stars. A trip to L.A. isn’t completely without at least one encounter with a bona fide movie or TV star. But why troll the aisles of a Beverly Hills’ grocery store or pay for a tour-guided tram ride in hopes of seeing a name when Elliot Gould, Ed Asner, Eric Stoltz, Hector Elizondo, Anne Heche, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff Goldblum and many others sign on for LATW stints?

Comments

  1. Louisa M. Mendels says:

    LATW is a superb resource for all. I attended last year’s performances with James Marsters in “She Stoops To Conquer” and would love to see and hear more of his performances with LATW in the future.