New Los Angeles Theatre Center hire

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Hoping to rise above its precursors’ legacy of fiscal problems, the New Los Angeles Theatre Center has hired a new general manager as it tries to turn downtown dwellers into ticket buyers.

Paul Stuart Graham arrived last month after three years as producing director of Actors Co-op, the respected 99-seat theater based at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, where company members are Christian believers who perform mainstream plays. The mission of the New LATC, where shows revolve around a multicultural core of resident companies and an annual international fall festival, is to provide “a stage that will look like the city,” said Artistic Director Jose Luis Valenzuela. The general manager’s job includes trying to attract a healthy audience for LATC’s four stages, which range from a small black box to 500 seats.

“Running a 99-seat theater is a whole different ballgame than operating a venue with four theaters,” said Graham, who also teaches arts management at Cal State Los Angeles.

The city-owned LATC is in a restored 1916 bank building at 514 S. Spring St. Converting it into a theater complex and sustaining its operations has cost more than $31 million in public funding since the mid-1980s. Envisioned as a cog in the revival of downtown L.A., it has struggled since to become self-sustaining. The Latino Theater Company, also led by Valenzuela, has operated LATC since 2006 under a 20-year agreement with the city.

Graham said the nonprofit LATC gets just 25% of its $1.4-million budget from ticket sales, with the rest coming from donors. His near-term goal is to boost earnings so that they’ll cover 40% of the organization’s needs. With marketing efforts targeting downtown neighborhoods, Graham hopes to fill half the available seats during the Face of the World Festival, which opens Sept. 12 and includes Mexican star Ofelia Medina in performances.