Block Party is our new celebration of Los Angeles Theatre. In January, we announced that we would be collaborating with three local theatre companies to make this inaugural event a reality. Coeurage Theatre Company, The Fountain Theatre, and The Echo Theater Company are each one piece of the ecosystem that is Los Angeles theatre, and their stories are as vibrant and diverse as the city they call home.
The youngest company to collaborate with us on Block Party is Coeurage Theatre Company. Founded in 2009 by a group of graduates from California State University, Fullerton, their name is derived from the French word for “heart.” It is a quality they bring to all their productions. In fact, a 2016 American Theatre magazine story singled them out as
among the most theatrical of the many theatre companies in Los Angeles.
Coeurage extends that heart beyond the stage to their audiences. Operating on a pay-what-you-want business model, they "exist to make impassioned theatre available to all audiences," said Coeurage Theatre Company Artistic Director Jeremy Lelliott. "We let every single patron who comes to our show choose their own ticket price for every single performance for every single production."
For our first Block Party, we’re taking a page from Coeurage’s book and offering a special pay-what-you-want preview for all three Block Party shows, the first of which is Coeurage’s production of Failure: A Love Story by Philip Dawkins, which is onstage at the Douglas through April 23, 2017. Failure tells the story of the Fail sisters and their ill-fated love affairs with the same man in a magical (and theatrical) Chicago of the 1920s.
For Lelliott, it represents a vote of confidence in the work that Coeurage is doing. "It’s pretty remarkable that Center Theatre Group is putting, literally, their money where their mouths are and pointing to [the L.A. theatre] community and saying, Hey, everyone. Look over here. We believe in what these people are doing."
The Fountain Theatre was founded in 1990 by co-Artistic Directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs. From the beginning, they have been committed to presenting work that reflects the diversity of the city they call home. Located near a sleepy section of Hollywood, The Fountain Theatre makes its home near the corner of Fountain and Normandie.
For over 20 years, they have produced works from laudable playwrights such as Athol Fugard, Tanya Saracho, and Tarell Alvin McCraney (who is coming to the Taper soon with Head of Passes). For Block Party, they will be presenting their 2015 production of Citizen: An American Lyric.
Citizen is an adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s book by the same name, and uses interviews, first-hand accounts, and poetry to explore racism in the United States. Stephen Sachs (who also wrote the adaptation) is excited to bring this production to the Douglas stage. "[Center Theatre Group] is being incredibly generous to open its doors, and its resources, to allow us as theatre artists to expand our artistic vision of what the piece could be," he said. Catch Citizen: An American Lyric onstage at the Douglas April 28 – May 7, 2017.
The Echo Theater Company is a playwright’s theatre company. Since 1997, they have presented 48 World premieres by playwrights like Sarah Ruhl, Adam Rapp, Tommy Smith, and Sheila Callaghan ( who also wrote Women Laughing Alone With Salad) at their space in the Atwater Village Theatre complex.
"Our mission is to nurture playwrights and produce and present them at any and all levels," said Echo Theater Company Artistic Director Chris Fields. "We do readings, we do workshops, we do full productions, and we emphasize the relationship with the playwright." It’s a tradition they continue as they remount Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel for Block Party. Written when Spiegel was only 21 years old, it tells the tale of two high school seniors, an unwanted pregnancy, and the obstacles facing young women in America. As an added bonus for those who missed it the first time, this represents an opportunity for Los Angeles audiences to see the 2016 Ovation Award-winning production for Best Production of a Play (Intimate Theatre). Closing out the party, Dry Land plays the Kirk Douglas Theatre May 12–21, 2017.