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Elephant Theatre Co. in Hollywood bids farewell, for now at least

Theater patrons get some fresh air at intermission during "The Twilight of Schlomo" in January 2014 at Elephant Theatre Co. The company, known for championing new plays, has ceased operations for now.

Theater patrons get some fresh air at intermission during “The Twilight of Schlomo” in January 2014 at Elephant Theatre Co. The company, known for championing new plays, has ceased operations for now.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Elephant Theatre Co. in Hollywood has ceased operations and its members are considering their options following the recent sale of the company’s longtime home on Santa Monica Boulevard, leaders said in recent interviews.

The award-winning company, which has built a reputation for championing new American plays, is the latest casualty on Hollywood’s Theatre Row, which has seen an exodus of companies in recent years due to rising rents and other real-estate woes.

“The Great Divide” by Lyle Kessler was the company’s last production before it shut down in the last week of August. “Emotionally, it was hard on a lot of people,” said David Fofi, a company founder who served as artistic director. “I personally have experienced anger and depression.”

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Fofi, who has since moved from L.A., said that a lot of the company’s funds were exhausted in trying to pay the rent, which had nearly doubled in the last 15 years. The Elephant was a nonprofit that produced plays mostly in the Lillian Theatre, located in the building known as Elephant Stages. Two adjacent stages -- the Elephant Space and Studio -- served as rentals and were run as a for-profit business by Fofi and Don Cesario.

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The owner of the building sold the property this year, said Fofi. The sale wasn’t a surprise; the owner had informed the company of his plans about two years ago.

“I personally am taking a break,” Fofi added. “I’ve left L.A. for the time being -- I’m doing an exploratory journey.”

The Elephant Theatre Co.'s members, who number around 50 actors and stage professionals, will ultimately decide if the nonprofit will continue and in what form.

“I am currently in conversation with the company members about several different possibilities for the future of the company,” said Lindsay Allbaugh, a former co-artistic director who now works at Center Theatre Group, in an email.

“We are in the process of scheduling a meeting to talk about what the Elephant will look like now, or if we should even continue as a company at all. We all have to assess if we have the time, the passion, the commitment to re-evaluate the Elephant.”

She said that “it’s a hard time for all of us.”

In 2012, the company went on a temporary hiatus. At the time, leaders said the company had been scraping by financially and was having trouble making ends meet. The company reopened the following year.

Founded in 1995 in a downtown loft space, the Elephant Theatre Co. moved to its home in Hollywood during the 1998-99 season.

Among its notable productions have been Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “The Little Flower of East Orange” and “In Arabia We’d All Be Kings”; “7 Redneck Cheerleaders,” which was revived several times; and last year’s “The Twilight of Schlomo,” by Timothy McNeil.

Other stage companies to exit Theatre Row in recent years include Open Fist, the Celebration Theatre and the performance art group Schkapf.

The Celebration, whose longtime home on Santa Monica Boulevard is now a medical marijuana dispensary, relocated to Atwater Village but recently announced that it will return to the old neighborhood as a resident company of the Lex Theatre.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT


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