The LA Times Once Again Shows its Disconnect

Per Don Shirley, the ever watchful guardian of all things LA Theatre, he rolls out this story entitled “Summer Classics Thrive Despite the LA Times”  over at LA Stage Watch showing that once again the LA Times doesn’t have a fucking clue.

This time the subject is Shakespeare in Los Angeles. According to a recent Times article written by James C. Taylor and entitled “Shakespeare in LA: Summer of our Discontent” the lack of a Shakespeare Festival for the first time in a while is seen as a death knell of sorts. Here’s the big question framed by the article:

With Donenberg’s troupe, now called the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, dark this summer, it seems like a good time to ask: Why hasn’t a signature summer Shakespeare tradition blossomed during L.A.’s warmer evenings? Are our outdoor venues simply dealing with the same challenges facing indoor theaters year-round — or are there unique factors hampering alfresco Shakespeare?

Don fires back with these numbers:

The official count of the crowd at Independent Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet last night was 1,240 – a new record for the ISC.

And this:

Of course the ISC is hardly the only summertime Shakespeare in the area. On its website, the Shakespeare Center graciously provides a page of links to eight summer festivals that present Shakespeare in the LA vicinity. But even that list missed at least a couple, such as Shakespeare Orange County and the Classical Theatre Lab’s production of As You Like It (see below).

So what’s the deal with the Times’ absolute cluelessness? Why do they continue to ask the wrong questions? Well Don again hits the nail on the head with this:

Reading on in Taylor’s article, it becomes clearer that his complaint isn’t a lack of opportunities to see summertime Shakespeare in LA but rather the fact that these festivals haven’t yet attained the high-profile status of the New York Public Theater’s festival in Central Park, the Old Globe’s in San Diego or Oregon’s in Ashland.  In other words, he’s looking for star names and big budgets.

Yup. Once again the Times wants to look everywhere else for LA’s theatre legitimacy rather than in its own backyards.

Check out this final ditty from the Times article, pulling a quote from Melissa Chalsma Independent Shakespeare Co’s Founder:

“Look at Ashland, it’s out of the way but people don’t just drive 60 miles from Oregon to go there, they come from all over the world.” She adds that they’re making the pilgrimage not to see the architecture of the theater, but rather the work that’s onstage. Putting on high-quality productions that rival the best companies in the world is ultimately what will make Los Angeles a Shakespeare destination. “Just because L.A. doesn’t have it yet,” Chalsma says, “doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible.”

Here’s the scoop, folks, LA will probably never become a Shakespeare destination, but that in no way should hinder producing Summer Shakespeare al fresco. Which apparently we are doing. It’s just that the Times, once again, is looking East and North rather than West and therefore remains absolutely clueless to what is happening in Los Angeles Theatre.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Enci says:

    And think about all the other “Shakespearian” plays this year, which included “Pulp Shakespeare”, “Four Clowns: Romeo and Juliet” and “Porter’s Macbeth”. I think LA rocks!

  2. Though there’s plenty going on around town, the quality of work — in my opinion — is nowhere near the quality going on at The Old Globe or Ashland. But OSF and OG have been around for 50 years, local orgs have been around for significantly less time. Reputation is built over time, making the Times’ comparison a little unfair. As Melissa Chalsma said in her quote, it’s possible that we get there. But I don’t think we’re on that path just yet…