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Skylight Theatre’s Artistic Director Gary Grossman Interview - State of the Arts for 2017 Season Intimate Theatre

By Ester Benjamin Shifren

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Salute 2016 Skylight Celebration


A new year! But the new season brings new restrictions to many performing arts groups in Los Angeles. Despite the majority of membership voting against the decision, Actors  Equity Association now forbids their actors from volunteering to participate in creative theatrical projects. The former 99-seat plan was a catalyst for Los Angeles intimate theatre companies to thrive over the past decades. So, what now? Will our prominent intimate theatre companies, like the Skylight, survive?


"Our goals have not changed," says Gary Grossman, Producing Artistic Director, at the Skylight Theatre Company. “While the Union may hope that the judge’s decision will be the end of Los Angeles’ unique intimate theater experiment and force the closing of a majority of the city’s non-profit 99-seat theaters, we intend to continue our fight to preserve this important and valuable part of our city’s cultural life.” 




During their fund raiser, “Salute 2016,” which I attended in December, the star-studded energy in the packed Skylight Theatre left no doubt that this company was respected and supported. They seemed as determined as ever to go forward with the next season and provide audiences in Los Angeles with outstanding new plays that reflect the current climate and culture in our communities. Los Angeles presents some of the best theatre in the country, developing works that travels the globe. Along with Rogue Machine, Boston Court, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, Sacred Fools, Ruskin Group Theatre, to name a few, you can count on Skylight Theatre to offer a great experience of non-insular, mind-expanding entertainment. The work is fresh and progressive, with a focus and urgency on current issues. So what is the plan, even without the 99-seat plan this year? Gary Grossman answered questions about what this year will look like for the Skylight Theatre Company


Ester: Why is this change, with the new AEA rules, so important to intimate theatre in Los Angeles?

Gary: The change adds a big expense to these small performing arts groups that are already struggling. It insists that some producing theatre companies be singled out, so they will now be forced to pay their union actors minimum wage for both rehearsal and performances. This could cause theatres to close or to use non-equity actors. In some instances Equity has arbitrarily designated certain Theatres to operate as membership companies and have no rules. All this after a 2/3 of The Los Angeles Members of Actors Equity voted against it. We believe the change is Equity wanting to shut down “Intimate Theatre” in Los Angeles.





Ester: What about your outreach programs, and especially your youth programs?

Gary: Lyric Project provides hundreds of inner city teens, ages 15-18, an outlet for expression through the art of song writing. Classes are held in detention centers, Los Angeles County high schools and after school programs. Selected lyricists are teamed with professional composers to help set their words to music. In recognition of their status as emerging music professionals, an ASCAP professional introduces them to the business of songwriting. Finally, professional singers perform the new songs in concert with dance and video interviews celebrating the teen's songs, and their lives. 



Ester: Tell us about your new season, and the shows that you are offering?

Gary: Our 2017 season is filled with stories about people taking the chance to reveal the truth of “who they are?”

We open the season with the World Premiere of Shades of Disclosure, created and performed by the revolutionary voice of QueerWise. Spanning from the 1988 display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington DC to the worldwide women’s marches, this show celebrates the triumphant lives of real people whose personal stories have been forgotten or silenced.



Winner of the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Award for Comic Playwriting, Louisa Hill’s The Lord of the Underworld’s Home for Unwed Mothers reimagines the Persephone myth, exploring the politics of motherhood. It opens in the beginning of April and will be directed by Tony Abatemarco.

Black Super Hero Magic Mamaby Inda Craig-Galvan is planned for early August. It won the 2016 WomenWorks national playwriting competition and tells the story of a single black mother, unable to cope with the shooting death of her 14-year-old son at the hands of a white police officer. She retreats into a comic book fantasy world as a super hero crime fighter, but soon must decide if she will return to the real world to mourn her loss. Deena Selenow will be directing.

Our Father’s Houseby celebrated Los Angeles playwright Luis Alfaro will be Co-Produced with Playwright’s Arena at the end of the year. Loosely inspired by Lorca’s classic tale, The House of Bernarda Alba, this new theatre piece combines physical work, choral voices, and storytelling on a bare stage. It examines the traits of violence in religion, and will be directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera.

Ester: Are you optimistic about the state of the arts and theatre in Los Angeles?

Gary: Yes, I’m optimistic because Los Angeles is a vibrant Theatre Community! Artists here are resilient and they will fight to make their art grow even stronger. If you live in Los Angeles and you’ve never ventured to see a show in one of our noted “Intimate” houses, you’re missing a wonderful experience!



Photos Credit Ed Krieger and Skylight Theatre

Shades of Disclosure opens at 8:00pm on Saturday, January 28 and runs at 8:00pm Saturdays, and 3:00pm on Sundays through February 25, 2017. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $15 - $40. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online here

Published on Feb 01, 2017

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