An Open Letter to the LA Theatre Community from Peter Finlayson of Footlights

Peter Finlayson, CEO/President of Footlights Publishing, Inc.

Grabbed this off of BigCheap, an open letter from the CEO and President of Footlights, Peter Finlayson.

Footlights is the company that makes the high quality theatre programs you see around town. A very valuable service, in my opinion, that definitely adds a touch of class to the Los Angeles theatre experience. Peter is a staunch advocate of all things Los Angeles Theatre and always deserves a listen.

Here’s what he had to say:

An open letter to The Los Angeles Theatre Communiy:

Last night, The LADCC awards were held at the new facilities for A Noise Within. Rogue Machine, one of the intimate companies in town won enough recognition to essentially call their production, Small Engine Repair, the show of the year. Congratulations on their efforts and accomplishments.

What was really sad however, is how few of the members of The LA theatre community were present. It would seem that most of the people were there because either they were nominated, or were in a show that was nominated, or they were with someone that was nominated.

Folks, if we as a community don’t respect the work of our fellow thespians enough to attend the awards shows, how do we expect the public to take notice, let alone takeinterest. If we are a community, then we should celebrate the accomplishments of the community. If we are only interested in our own successes, than we are missing one of the best parts of theatre, and that is collaboration.

Amongst other awards, Ron Sossi of The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble received an award acknowledging his 43 years of commitment to theatre in LA. If you haven’t worked with Ron, and you weren’t there last night, you missed the opportunity to meet him. If you haven’t worked at the Odyssey, well, that speaks for itself.

Awards shows, be it the Oscars, or Tony’s, or Ovations, or LADCC, offer opportunity to celebrate the effort of artists, If we’re not willing to celebrate the accomplishments of others, why do we expect to be celebrated ourselves. If you weren’t there, and you know who you are, think about it. The Oscars are watched by millions of people, not because they care about the winners, but because it’s an opportunity to see all of the players together, that becomes news.

And folks, the reason nobody knows that we have one of the most dynamic accomplished theatre communities in the world, is because we as a community don’t take the time to show it.

Peter Finlayson
FootLights

If I’m reading the letter correctly, it seems that Peter is implying the main reason for the low turnout is a general selfishness on the part of the theatre community. A kind of, “I wasn’t nominated so I’m not going” response. I believe the reasons are far more practical and more about the LADCC than the Los Angeles Theatre Community.

These are my personal reasons for not attending; the $40 ticket price and the fact that the LADCC, in my opinion, simply doesn’t carry the weight that it once did. That’s it. I simply could not afford $40 for an award that I don’t have a lot of respect for, hell, I couldn’t afford that amount even if I DID have more respect for the particular award.

It’s also possible that the LADCC folks just didn’t do a very good job of reaching out to the community at large, including them, making it a community event, offering a compelling reason to attend. In my travels around the LA blogosphere this certainly was my experience with anything related to the awards. All I saw was a basic bland press release.  This seems to be the consensus building over at BigCheap, where Artistic Directors of local theatre companies are saying they never even HEARD about the ceremony. This from the supposed “Los Angeles Theatre Critical body of note”? Pretty poorly.

Anybody else have a comment on Peter’s letter? It’s a fair question to raise. Why was the turnout so low at last night LADCC Awards Ceremony?

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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. Brian says:

    $40 is enough to keep me away. I understand Peter’s point. But how many award ceremonies do we need to attend in order for the community to be community enough? I’ve gone to the LA Weekly Awards and the Ovation awards. They are well attended. Does that count?

  2. Sandra Zeitzew says:

    I have been attending for years and they always put on a great show! but couldn’t manage to get away early enough to make the looooong commute from Santa Monica to the new (envy-inspiring gorgeous)ANW theatre in Pasadena and arrive before the end of the show. Kudos to all the winners!

  3. Anyone who’s worked in the LA theatre community knows that there isn’t much collaboration between companies. You can’t compare the OSCARS to these awards. LA is known for being movie central. NY is known for the shows. Everybody knows this…and instead of worrying about the award shows and patting OURSELVES on the backs…go out there, and be SO AMAZING that other’s OUTSIDE of the community stand up and take notice and celebrate you. Be a mirror to society.

  4. Steven says:

    A $40 price is pretty steep for struggling actors. Most of the theatre community that has been chastised for not attending – are out there performing their talents in shows with ticket prices that are half or less than that….
    In the spirit of “community,” the LADCC should offer members of the theatre community two-for-one discounts or other incentives like so many of us must offer to the public to sell our tickets and develop our audiences….
    I also agree with Colin – presumably members of the LA Drama Critics are indeed drama critics who work for reputable media outlets, but yet they failed to use their own media outlets to properly publicize their own event…..
    Perhaps members of the media community need to practice what they preach and look to their own houses first…

  5. I’m not afraid to admit that I know almost nothing about the LADCC or their awards. I don’t know who’s a part of the LADCC (except Tony Frankel, as he identified himself as a member to me last year during our run of The Birthday Boys), what their criteria for nominations are or how the winners are decided. I don’t know when their awards are. This all adds up to them not having much significance to me. To me, they’re a very, very small blip on the radar.

    What’s frustrating is that my ignorance isn’t willful. I’ve been working in LA Theatre for almost a decade now, and the first I recall even hearing about them was maybe two years ago, when I saw a list of nominees posted on (surprise, surprise) Bitter Lemons. I remember thinking to myself, “oh wow! Are these new? What’s their criteria for nomination?” A few Google searches later, and I couldn’t find anything – let me emphasize that – *anything* about them, except for the list of nominees I’d already found. So, I decided that they must not be all that important and promptly forgot about them. The complete lack of hoopla surrounding them until Peter’s letter now has only reenforced that image in my mind. To be fair, I know about as much as the LADCC Awards as I do the LA Weekly Theatre Awards or Backstage Garland Awards (hell, TU was NOMINATED for some awards from Backstage a few years ago and the only reason why we found out was because one of our members stumbled across the list of nominees online somewhere weeks after it had been posted. No one told us or anything). Maybe my ignorance here makes me a bad producer. However, if there are more LA Theatre artists like me, I think it’s indicative that the folks that give these awards need to make a bigger deal out of them. If there was a significance or prestige associated with the LADCC them previously, I think the passage of time has created a generational knowledge gap. To me the only awards in LA Theatre are The Ovations, and that’s because the crew at LASA do a great job at making us aware of them.

    • I think your experience – or lack thereof – with the LADCC is typical, Greg. And sad. They used to carry some weight. Not so much anymore.

      Oh, and Tony Frankel was rejected for membership to their ranks.

  6. Adam says:

    There were LADCC awards recently? Perhaps if the LADCC would bother to try and INCLUDE everyone, more people would go.

  7. Peter Finlayson says:

    Bitter Lemons, thanks for the repost. While I certainly intended to stir up the hornet’s nest, I absolutely concur there are problems. But, if the problems are addressed, then remedies can be found. Public perception of Theatre must be the end goal.

    There are three reasons to have an awards show, one to acknowledge the achievements of those honored, two, is to create a social opportunity for THEATRE MAKERS, and three, public awareness.

    One is for ego, one is for party, and one is to make the business look and feel as glamourous as it should be. Whether the awards are important is only of consequence if you do or don’t get one, the party is important because we need to know we’re not alone, and the public perception is important so people will begin clamoring for theatre, and stop waiting for the 1/2 price ticket.

    This discussion has many elements, and should be carried on, but it needs to be done in a forum that will affect change. Let’s identify the problems, and look for solutions, Who’s willing to get involved?

  8. Sounds great. Who from LADCC wants to step up and lead the charge?

    • Indeed. That appears to be the right question to ask, Greg.

      And in response to you, Peter, clearly there was a failure in the “public awareness” area that you touch upon, as evidenced by the responses here and at BigCheap.

      The ball is in the LADCC’s court to do something about that.

  9. Brian says:

    Hey Greg (and anybody else who may want this info-

    Here is the website for the LADCC: http://www.ladramacriticscircle.com/

    You can contact them and request a list of members so you can invite them to your shows (if you want to be considered for LADCC awards.)

  10. Brian, thank you for the link!

    We already do invite all of these publications to our shows. Correct me if I’m wrong, but at the very least, Backstage, the Times and the LA Weekly randomly assign their critics to productions, meaning it’s a crap shoot whether or not we get assigned a critic that’s a member of the LADCC.

    Can we request to be reviewed by a LADCC member? Do we have to send them invitations separate from our usual press releases? How many critics need to nominate your show for it to appear on the ballot? In other words, how does it work?

    A little more light on this matter will certainly ignite some excitement and passion! =)

  11. Wouldn’t it be lovely if someone from the actual organization stepped up to answer your questions?

    I remember years ago when writing a press release for a new show, I mentioned a quote from a critic from one of my earlier productions and mentioned that he was an LADCC member.

    Within a day I was contacted by said critic, who in no uncertain terms told me to never use LADCC when referencing any of the LADCC critics – even if they were actually members of the organization. Apparently, they were such an elite organization that to speak their name was nothing short of sacrilege.

    Not sure if that’s changed since, but it certainly told me everything I needed to know about the organization back then.

  12. Kevin says:

    It’s interesting to note that at the bottom of the LADCC website is:

    © 2004-2006 LADramaCriticsCircle.com

    In the Internet age, this signals a little cared-for website (one would expect to see “2004-2012″) and perhaps is an indication of a general problem.

  13. Edgar says:

    I agree with the consensus that NOBODY knew these awards were being held. Even had I known, however, a $40 ticket is still pricey. I will have to STRONGLY disagree with Xopher who posted earlier. He states that “everyone” knows there isn’t much collaboration between companies. I beg to differ. There is ENORMOUS amounts of collaboration, support and generosity between companies and theatre folks. I’m not necesssarily referring to the showcase vanity productions that tend to spring up on a certain section of Santa Monica Blvd but to the many excellent companies toiling in the trenches and doing great work. I have NEVER been turned down when I have reached out for help, assistance, or collaboration.

  14. Brian says:

    Greg, you can email anybody on that list and invite them to come see your show for LADCC consideration. They can still see the show for for voting purposes even if they aren’t reviewing for a publication. The LADCC is not affiliated with any publication as far as I know.

  15. Gedaly Guberek Gedaly says:

    The ONLY thing I heard about the LADCC awards was the notice that came out with the nominations. If I was supposed to attend, I wish someone would have told me. Did LADCC do anything to promote their own event?

    It’s called marketing, people. Do some.

  16. While I’m aware that at one time the LADCC awards were considered the ultimate award here in Los Angeles, it seems as if their time has passed. Whether it’s due to lack of awareness, lack of support or a high price ticket is up for debate. The reality is that LASA does an incredible job of making everyone aware of the Ovation Awards and the show is very well attended. LA Weekly also does a decent job of making sure people are aware and can afford to attend.
    Unlike with the Ovations where you know you need 12 votes to be considered, I don’t believe people know what the criteria is for the LADCC’s. I know we get 1 or 2 who come to see the show and they go through our Publicist to get their seats. I don’t see how that’s enough people to really decide on the best theatre in L.A.
    The other issue is just how many awards shows do we need here in L.A.? The public knowing about the awards is great but given the nature of theatre here, the awards do nothing when it comes to getting the public in to see the shows. By the time the nominations are announced (never mind the awards actually given out) the shows have been closed for months or in some cases over a year. Peter makes a good point when he says the awards shows are really for us as a community to come together and know each other. That said, the Ovations and the L.A. Weekly awards seem to do that. Do we need more then that?