Pacific Resident Theatre - Celebrating 30 Year in Venice

Pacific Resident Theatre is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. From a tiny space in Venice, the company has grown into three theaters and 120 members. Artistic Director Marilyn Fox has been with PRT since its inception and had some interesting and enlightening information to share about the theater company, its original goals, its growth since 1985, and some upcoming plans. 

 

What is your history with Pacific Resident Theatre?

 

I became a member of the group about two months after its start in 1985. I remember that the first play in the workshop was Odets’ play, “Waiting for Lefty.” PRT attracted an incredible group of talent. They came to Los Angeles from San Francisco because they had agents and managers who wanted to get them work in movies and television - but they wanted to keep doing plays because that’s where their hearts were. Our original home was at 705 ½ Venice Blvd., and it has forty seats. For the first ten years, I was primarily an actor. Gar Campbell, my husband, helped develop our aesthetic. At the end of 1995, I became the artistic director. Earlier, we had a smaller workshop at 707 Venice Blvd, but we gave that space up. During the first year of my artistic directorship, we grabbed that space again. It was big enough for 35 seats. Then my husband Gar Campbell, Orson Bean, and the company noticed that a local market was clearing its shelves. In 1997, that became our 99-seat main stage at 703 Venice Blvd. We opened there with “Golden Boy,” and we have had performances at all three theaters ever since. Our co-op workshops, run by actors in the company, are always alive and creative. Some of the most beautiful theater we’ve done has come out of their productions.

 

What do you think makes PRT so unique and helps it stand out as an important small theater in Los Angeles?

 

People come to our theater, and they say that they always feel love in what they see. There’s a warm feeling at the theater, a kind of integrity that’s consistent. They know that they’ll always enjoy what we present. They trust us, and that’s a big responsibility.

 

Who chooses the plays for the company? What is the criteria for selecting plays?

 

The co-op workshops are actor-driven, and they get to choose their own presentations. Sometimes they even write their own plays. We have a prolific and gifted unit in our theater, and three of our writers have been published.

 

I choose the plays for the main stage. I have a few criteria that I use. Most of the time, I take plays to the theater that I find to be beautifully written. I want to attract the best writers, and our theater is known for doing great plays and new works. I try to do a new play at least once a year. But sometimes I find things that people haven’t seen for a long time. Maybe the play has been forgotten, but it’s worth seeing. That includes a lot of European plays. My mother introduced me to some beautiful theater from Europe, plays by Molnar and others. I love French pieces, like plays by Giraudoux. We do plays you might not get to see very often. The play should be unusual and interesting. There should be something at its core. The play should come from something that mattered to the author. It should have heart and a lot of humanity. I like plays that I know will be an important and moving experience for people, but I don’t really have any rules. We just did “The Homecoming.” It’s not heart-warming, but it is the play of a genius writer.

 

When I’m planning the season, I pick twelve plays; and we do four of them. Subscribers weigh in on what they want to see. We don’t do double casting, but we have understudies. Every 18 months or so, we have auditions for new members to the company.

 

What’s coming up to help celebrate your 30th anniversary?

 

“The Homecoming” just closed, and we’re opening a new show on our main stage. Orson Bean developed a one-man show about his life. I’ve been watching it in rehearsal, and it’s very honest. That will kick off our 30th Anniversary Season.

 

In our mid-sized theater, we are doing a play by John Mortimer called “The Dock Brief.” He was an English writer, a great humanitarian and unique human being; he’s also a funny and poignant writer. “The Dock Brief” is a comedy with two characters; and it opens on October 10, 2015. It’s a short play, only one hour and ten minutes. It concerns a barrister who’s getting up in age and has never gone to Court. He’s intrinsically insecure and a loser, and now he is nearing the end of his career. Then, he finally gets a chance to go to the Court to defend a man who murdered his wife. The man is very contrite and doesn’t want to be defended. It’s a sweet, tender, funny play - almost like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. It’s a comedy about people who are forgotten, unsuccessful, or lost; and I find that tremendously touching. I knew people with great gifts that nobody knew about. They have it in them to do so much, and nobody knows or cares. It’s a funny and deep play, and it’s also witty and smart.

 

In our third theater, there’s a workshop production called “Will” by Bruce Glassman. It’s a play in development with a lovely cast and a great director. Near the end of October, we’ll have three weeks of play readings from our PRT Playwrights Group. We’ll have a different play every night for three weeks.

 

Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to add about PRT?

 

I think that our theater is remarkable. It has to be for the company to stay together for 30 years. We’ve received so many awards, and we are blessed with a dedicated following. We started with a company of 25 founding members. Now at least 14 are still members or associate members. People often come back to perform. It’s their campfire. They know they have a home here.

 

Somebody underwrote a show recently. He’s an avid theatergoer, and I asked him why he kept coming back to PRT. He told me that there’s consistency to our work. We actually do try to get to the spine of what we’re doing. That’s our goal. I credit Gar Campbell for that. He and the other wonderful people in our theater created an aesthetic that has real value, a consistent way of looking at things. I’m not saying that we always achieve our goal, but we’re always working towards that goal. When we did “The Homecoming,” we examined the play to find out what it was really about. I’m so proud of that. We want to entertain people but also to help an audience get into the heartbeat of the play. It takes science and art together to achieve that - and there’s always the element of the divine.

 

 

THE DOCK BRIEF opens at 8 pm on October 10, 2015, and runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $30. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 705 1/2 Venice Blvd. in Venice, CA 90291. For reservations, call (310) 822-8392 or go online at www.PacificResidentTheatre.com

 

 

SAFE AT HOME, An Evening with Orson Bean opens on Thursday, October 22, 2015, and runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $25 and $30. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd. in Venice, CA 90291. For reservations, call (310) 822-8392 or go online at www.PacificResidentTheatre.com

 

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