Two veteran Los Angeles companies, Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA and Circle X Theatre Co., have banded together to develop a new performing arts center at the Atwater Village Theatre and will offer a joint season in 2011.
When EST-LA was chosen by the developer to turn two warehouses on Casitas Avenue into two theaters, artistic director Gates McFadden realized they would need a partner to make it work. After considering numerous groups, she selected Circle X Theatre Co. The two companies had already worked together briefly as part of the new play series at [Inside] the Ford, where they discovered a similar dedication to producing new work and nurturing writers.
“Our two companies have created a fusion of our individual strengths and talents, yet both of us still maintain our separate identities,” explains McFadden. “This inspired collaboration may turn out to be the key factor in deciding our future at AVT.”
“We share similar values and goals,” agrees Circle X artistic director Tim Wright. “Together, we hope to create a sort of ‘incubator’ for the development and creation of new plays.”
The past nine months have been spent laying the ground work not only for completion of the physical conversion to a fully-equipped performing arts center, but for creating a true partnership in which the two like-minded companies will be able to collaborate and work together. In 2011, they each will offer two full productions as well as late night programming as part of a shared season. The following year, they hope to co-produce their first play together.
EST-LA kicks off the adventurous season of new work with a world premiere by Oscar-nominated writer Nicholas Kazan, who reinvents Franz Wedekind’s Lulu with Mlle. God (January 29-March 26). Scott Paulin directs Kazan’s outrageous tragic-farce, a paean to sex, art, and living in the millisecond, and Annika Marks stars as the femme fatale who is the reflection of every man’s desire. Not for the faint of trousers! (mature audiences only)
In April, the two companies open the centerpiece of their shared season: two new plays by prolific Los Angeles playwright Tom Jacobson, set to run concurrently and side-by-side in the two new theater spaces. Jacobson’s The Chinese Massacre (annotated) (April 16-May 22), commissioned by Circle X, is a fact-based chronicle of the first race riot in Los Angeles history, when 19 Chinese men and boys were lynched by vigilantes. One week later, EST-LA opens House of the Rising Son (April 23-May 29) directed by Michael Michetti, a subversive New Orleans romance that pays homage to the writing style and life of Tennessee Williams.
The fourth and final offering in the season will be a revival of Circle X’s acclaimed 2009 production of Battle Hymn by Jim Leonard – significantly rewritten and featuring a new ending (July 9 – August 13). Director John Langs and the original cast return to revisit Leonard’s fantastical epic about the journey of sixteen-year-old Martha, who, finding herself pregnant and ostracized on the eve of the Civil War, waits 150 years to have her baby.
In addition to the four mainstage productions, the two companies will offer late-night programming in February and March: EST-LA’s Crack Whore Galore (February 3 – March 5) mixes live music and raw adult humor to explore the ever popular cocktail of narcissism and desperation running rampant in today’s celebrity-driven culture. Circle X revives its LA Weekly Award-winning solo production Violators Will Be Violated (February 18-March 19), a unique, unconventional, nearly wordless theater experience that has more destruction, mayhem, murder, ambition and special effects than an action film. The LA Weekly’s Steven Leigh Morris called Violators, “An unwaveringly merciless portrait of self-destruction…It’s unabashedly puerile, scatological, nihilistic and as funny as hell.”
Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA is one of Los Angeles’ premier developmental and producing theaters and an offshoot of the renowned New York company that developed many of the most accomplished voices in the American theater, including Christopher Durang, Richard Greenberg, David Mamet, Marsha Norman, José Rivera, Shel Silverstein, John Patrick Shanley and Wendy Wasserstein. Through its developmental programs and full productions, Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA is poised to launch the next generation of new American plays and theater artists. In 2010, playwright Julie Hébert received the prestigious PEN Center USA Award for Drama for her play Tree, which was developed by EST-LA and presented as part of the [Inside] the Ford season of new plays.
Circle X Theatre Co. is a not-for-profit ensemble dedicated to highly provocative and boldly theatrical productions of new and rarely-seen plays. The company’s emphasis on innovation goes beyond the selection of thought-provoking, highly challenging plays and extends into everything from design, performance and direction to administration and marketing, creating the unique aesthetic for which Circle X is known. Circle X has been described as “ferocious,” “idealistic,” “adventurous,” “whimsical,” “courageous,” “talented,” “selfless, “a reminder of how good theater can be” and as aspiring to “a level of both sturdy professionalism and imaginative stagecraft that seems almost dangerously, headily high.”
Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Atwater Village, CA 90039. Ample parking is free on site. For more information and to request a season brochure, call 213-644-1929 or visit EST-LA and Circle X online at www.ensemblestudiotheatrela.org and www.circlextheatre.org