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Entertainment & Arts

Feedback: Why Los Angeles theatergoers are so unhappy with the city’s stage scene

“Happy Days”
Dianne Wiest in the Yale Repertory Theatre production of Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days,” which played at the Mark Taper Forum earlier this year.
(Joan Marcus)

Regarding Charles McNulty’s essay “Our Local Theater Lacks Direction, Leadership” [Oct. 20]: Los Angeles has excellent theater, but unlike New York it does not have a theater district. A Noise Within and La Mirada and the Garry Marshall are nowhere near each other.

Another problem is the Pantages — a barn no more fit for a theatrical production than the Coliseum would be for a hockey game. Even the 2,000-seat Ahmanson is too big, absurdly so for one-man shows. The 700-seat Taper is too small for many productions.

Perhaps a solution would be to build a theater district downtown. As part of a revitalization plan, start with the Music Center and Disney and build out. We could build 1,200-seat venues on Grand Avenue — state-of-the-art structures with the relative intimacy we associate with New York.

We should have shows like “Almost Famous” open in Los Angeles — and stay here, where it belongs.

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Robert Sheahen
Los Angeles

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It was so funny reading this because I have been discussing this very issue [about] the L.A. theater scene for years. It is truly disappointing to see [the problem] so pervasive at Center Theatre Group when they have so much potential with so many resources at their disposal.

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Lucas Gust
Los Angeles

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Thank you for voicing a clear and precise assessment of CTG. As my wife said when she resisted my request to leave at the intermission of “Happy Days” along with half the audience, “It can only get better.”

Let’s hope.

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Lance Ito
Pasadena

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McNulty’s opinion piece regarding the state of Center Theatre Group did not mention one important mission that CTG has been failing to accomplish. A major regional theater should be actively developing shows for a possible future Broadway run. In comparison, CTG’s neighbor to the South, the La Jolla Playhouse, has sent several shows to Broadway in the last few years such as “Diana,” “Summer” and “Escape to Margaritaville.” L.A. audiences deserve better theater than just a set of touring productions, N.Y./Chicago imports and vanity projects.

Michael Landman-Karny
Anaheim

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I could have written your piece 20 years ago. The glory of Gordon Davidson was well in the past when I became a regular subscriber in the early ‘90s. That his replacement was sold as in the same mold was a disappointment to me. But here we have it, very little exciting theater in a city with so much new and quality work being made.

I am really careful about which shows I attend now and still walk out of many (especially those with no intermission) or barely make it through many of the others.

Harlan Levinson
Los Angeles

Passion for theater

It was a pleasure to read Mary McNamara’s article about Joe Stern and his Matrix Theatre in Hollywood [“A Plan to Create Dramatic Diversity,” Oct. 17]. It is good to see Joe is still alive and kicking doing what he’s passionate about.

Judy Price
Valley Glen

Projecting quality?

Re: Ashley Lee’s “Projecting Enchantment Onstage” [Oct. 6] about the use of projection design in theater: After seeing “Anastasia” at the Pantages I must agree that the digital set designs were incredible. But having said that, the play itself was uninspiring. Lila Coogan sounded like every Disney princess, high-pitched and nasal. (Whatever happened to true operatic voices, like Patti LuPone or Julie Andrews?) Her acting was banal and lacked the true emotion of a woman who was mentally disturbed, being manipulated for money.

Every line coming out of her mouth sounded like Ariel talking to Flounder in “The Little Mermaid.” Watch Ingrid Bergman’s performance in 1956 if you want inspiration. The play is supposed be profound, and somewhat disturbing; instead it turned into a romantic comedy that is totally forgettable.

Harry Schwarz
Agoura Hills

When Brandi sang Joni

Inspired by Randy Lewis’ article “Tip of the Hat to Joni” [Oct. 16], I braved eastbound rush hour traffic on the 10 to snag a standby ticket to “Blue” performed live by Brandi Carlile with Joni Mitchell present. No way would I miss that.

Carlile’s performance was perfect. She claimed that she was not going to put her spin on the material, but is that even possible? She managed to evoke Joni and infuse the songs with her own distinct voice and energy.

I got to enjoy this experience with my young seat mate from San Luis Obispo — the only person who got to the standby line ahead of me. How cool was it that a 25-year-old Brandi Carlile fan and a 70-year-old Joni Mitchell fan could love this performance equally?

Laura Owen
Pacific Palisades

An apology is offered

Regarding Mark Swed’s “As Domingo Exits, His Legacy Lingers ” [Oct. 3]: The column referred to L.A. Opera’s 2003 original production of “Nicholas and Alexandra.” Mr. Swed described it as “inept.” Unfortunately, that description fits L.A. Opera’s flawed attempts to stage, market and support that production.

It is long overdue that L.A. Opera take responsibility for the ways in which we let down the composer Deborah Drattell. On behalf of the institution, I would like to do so, belatedly but sincerely.

Marc Stern
Malibu

Editor’s note: The letter writer is chairman of the board of L.A. Opera.

The mystery of the missing noir novel

Jeffrey Fleishman’s list of L.A. noir novels [“20 Essential Noir Books,” Oct 20] could have included “Hollywood Hang Ten” by Eve Goldberg. Set in a very recognizable ‘60s West L.A. and Santa Monica, the first-person mystery sneaks in issues of the Hollywood blacklist and gay/lesbian life of the period.

Tom Ostwald
Santa Barbara

This movie didn’t write itself

Did Tracy Brown really write a whole article [“How ‘Evil’ Found Keys to Its Tale,” Oct. 20] about the story process for the new “Maleficent” sequel without once mentioning the name of the credited screenwriters Linda Woolverton (who also wrote the original film), Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue?

The article even begins by naming the director in the first sentence. This is an example of the unexplained contempt journalists (writers themselves) seem to have for screenwriters. Or it’s solid evidence that the now disproved in academia but still mistakenly believed by others auteur theory still holds sway. But directors do not write their films unless they are writer-directors.

Rosanne Welch
Van Nuys

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Ignoring the screenwriters seems to be a long-standing, unspoken and unwritten rule in entertainment. Dismissing their contributions makes it seem a film magically comes to life without writers.

Often the director and the actors get full credit for a production that starts with a writer and the world the writer(s) imagined. A universe they write about and bring to life for others to play in.

I wonder what outrage there’d be by you and other writers if your byline was left off your articles.

Mary Robbins
Orange

The book on Bloom

The Times’ obituary [by Elaine Woo] for Harold Bloom [“Harold Bloom, Author of ‘Anxiety of Influence’ Who Fought Modern Trends, Dies at 89, ” Oct. 15] calls his 1994 book “The Western Canon” his magnum opus. It bears adding that a Los Angeles Times book reviewer made a notable contribution to it.

In an earlier work “The Book of J” (1990), Bloom argued that J, the presumed writer (according to the “Documentary Hypothesis”) of the earliest source of the Hebrew Bible, may have been a woman — likely a descendant of King David — in the courts of kings Solomon and Rehoboam.

In a review of “The Book of J” that was both laudatory and critical, Jack Miles noted that Bloom’s thesis owed a nod to Richard Elliott Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible?” (1987) and then proposed that J was David’s wife and Solomon’s mother Bathsheba. Subsequently, in “The Western Canon,” Bloom acknowledged this proposal by a “shrewd reviewer” and added: “I am happy to adopt the suggestion belatedly.”

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

There’s no humor in Hitler

Regarding the Kenneth Turan review “Risky Satire ‘Jojo Rabbit’ Turns the Weapon of Humor on Hitler” [Oct. 18]: Please tell Mr. Turan that as long as we have living parents who barely survived as German citizens under Hitler, there is nothing humorous about humanizing a tyrant .

This movie is an affront to decency and the memory of our relatives.

Craig Carr
West Hills

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Hitler was not funny. He never will be funny, and his rise to power is as good a place as any to mark the death of satire as a moral corrective.

Paul Gronseth
Claremont

The serious side of the ‘The Brady Bunch’

I appreciated Carolina A. Miranda’s article on “The Brady Bunch” [“HGTV’s ‘Brady’ House Redo Isn’t What It Seems, What Would Its Architect Say?” Sept. 29]. Miranda writes that “The Brady Bunch” was a “show that was blissfully untouched by social or political strife when it first aired...”

“The Brady Bunch” did not attempt to comment on Vietnam, LSD or Watergate. (Thank you, Sherwood Schwartz!) Remember, this was a “family” sitcom, but arguably one aimed squarely at younger viewers who recognized themselves in at least one of the six Brady kids. Unlike the “kid-coms” that would follow on Saturday mornings in the ’80s, take up residence on ABC on TGIF (not coincidentally, in the Bradys’ original time slot), and eventually spawn on the Disney Channel in the ’90s and beyond, each episode did not have to feature a serious topic, a teachable moment or “one to grow on.”

But what Miranda seems to be unaware of is that “The Brady Bunch” also had its share of important issues, and we still learned a few lessons along the way from Mike’s lectures, albeit couched in the simple, humorous language and style of the family sitcom. This, without ever resorting to the Very Special Episode maudlinism of a “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Blossom” or “Saved by the Bell.”

The premise of the show itself was already a taboo-breaking comment on society and America’s changing families — a second marriage for two adults who each brought three children to form a new family.

The first season alone gave us several episodes dealing with stereotypical gender definitions, Mike and Carol switching parental roles, Greg and Marcia running against each other for class president, and both a male and a female doctor showing up to cure the Bradys’ measles. There were several episodes that dealt with the difficult adjustments facing blended families.

In the next four years, the Bradys also dealt with equal rights, gender politics, bullying, environmentalism and women in the workplace.

In a 1974 backdoor pilot/episode they even tackled multi-ethnic adoption and racism. No mean feat for a happy little half-hour sitcom that never even ranked in the top 10.

Axel W. Kyster
Bradbury


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