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What theater is uniquely capable of

Charles McNulty calls on us “to reflect on what theater truly means to us today” (“Needed: Fresh Dramatic Ideas,” March 28). Theater is a rare communal experience trying to survive in an individualistic age.

In 2010, theater occupies a nearly unique place in our culture. We join others in quiet and purpose, we turn off cellphones and do not Twitter or take photographs during the performance. We sit and interact with real people for a few hours. The stage is a golden opportunity for serious consideration of today’s complex and often morally ambiguous problems.

Why offer us small plays that would be better off as movies? Why give us boring Sunday school lessons, when theater is ideally suited to deliver the intellectual complexity and the in-depth examination of our lives that we crave?

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Quiet, focus, attention, deep emotional involvement -- a few moments of sanity -- this is what theater can offer us in a noisy world of over-simplified sound bites.

Virginia Mekkelson

Look at the smaller venues

I really appreciated Charles McNulty’s article, and I hope the theaters he mentioned take it to heart. As a Los Angeles playwright, I find this trend toward commercial spectacle really disheartening. And even in the case of the Geffen, how much more exciting would it be if they committed to produce a new play by someone like Sheila Callaghan (who studied at UCLA) instead of just doing the latest Neil LaBute or Mamet play? If only in the smaller space.

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But there is also a lot of exciting theater being done in L.A. in small houses. The Boston Court, Black Dahlia, Powerhouse and Art/Works come to mind. If these larger theaters created a better partnership with these smaller theaters to support local talent and create new works, it might prove beneficial all around. These smaller theaters have sent plays to New York, why not to downtown?

Michael Vukadinovich

Do away with the snack bars

Regarding the article by Mary MacVean (“Snack Bar Health Reform,” March 28).

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I have always found it fascinating that people cannot sit in a movie for 1 1/2 hours without eating. Apparently they can watch a play or chamber music concert for the same length of time without munching.

I say eliminate the movie theater snack bars. People can eat before they come to the movie. They’ll be able to hear better and the way-too-loud movie sound can be turned down and we won’t have to listen to the rustling of candy wrappers and popcorn bags.

What the theater owners lose in concessions, they can make up for by not having to hire people to staff the snack bar and clean each theater after every showing.

Dianne Bates

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Turan should recuse himself

Instead of stuffing a column with self-aggrandizement about his principles (“When a Film Star is Also a Family Friend,” March 28), why didn’t Kenneth Turan simply excuse himself from writing about someone he knows?

Surely others see Zoe Kazan’s value. Sidestepping that her grandfather is Elia Kazan adds to the disingenuousness.

Art Fein

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