|Stayin' Alive - Intimate Theatre in L.A.|
by Willard Manus
For some time now, the VS. Theatre Company has been a solid member of the L.A. intimate-theatre community, mounting an impressive body of work over the years. A non-profit organization, it primarily produces world, west coast and L.A. premieres by leading American playwrights.
The companys stated mission is to:
-- develop and/or produce original works and rarely performed plays from major playwrights
-explore the human potential for triumph and tragedy
-champion the theatre as a living art form; to reach out to a larger and more diverse audience
- entertain and challenge that audience
To learn more about the company-and ask how it was coping with the pandemic-- Willard Manus conducted the following interview with the companys artistic director, Johhny Clark.
1) Will the VS Theatre Co be able to survive the pandemic? Are you taking any special steps to help keep it alive?
I sure hope
so. We have some savings that will help us with rent and utilities in
the short-term. We pay our artists and designers whenever we do a show.
But there is no salary/ fixed overhead. I volunteer all my time. Have
always done so. That helps with costs. With so many people out of work
and hurting right now, it just doesnt feel right to be fundraising.
At some point in the future, well get to work on raising money.
2004. Myself and Kimberly Rose-Wolter founded the company with an emphasis on doing new plays for Los Angeles audiences. Contemporary plays we loved that just werent getting down out here. Small cast, actor driven pieces. Our first show, The Credeaux Canvas, ran 6 months and sold out every night. Beginners luck. :) Suddenly, a theater company was born!
3) How has the company been financed? Are there, say, one or two big donors? Or has it been supported by dues-paying members?
We have some
donors, small grants, and foundation support. Plus rental income from
classes and workshops in our space. We have a wonderful company, Inkwell
Theatre, which is in residence at our space. They do a Playwrights Lab
every year which is excellent. And to quote the great Tennessee, we sometimes
rely on the kindness of strangers. We are NOT a dues paying
All except for one (True West last year) was either an Original/West Coast/Los
Angeles Premiere. 5 or 6 of those 20 have been co productions.
We were itinerant
until Summer, 2012. Then moved into the theatre on Pico. Used to be called
The Black Dahlia Theatre. My good friend Matt Shakman founded and ran
it for years (Hes now the Artistic Director for the Geffen Playhouse).
They did amazing work and it was always my favorite place to see theatre.
Im so grateful that when he moved out we were able to take it over
and have been there ever since. We lease the space. Not own.
received some grants over the years from the city of Los Angeles.
We work under
the Membership Company & Under 50-seat agreement.
the first time we partnered with EST/LA. Ive always admired their
work and Im a big fan of the playwright, Don Cummings. This was
a great opportunity to partner and I hope there will be other opportunities
down the road.
always done. Only produce those shows were truly passionate about.
Pure love for the art. Thats what led us to this point and I have
to believe it will allow us to continue.
I work a
full time job to support my theatre habit. :) Running VS. is a true labor
of love for me. Its a calling, a vocation. Nothing excites me more
that seeing a great play done well in an intimate space. Im blessed
every day to get the opportunity to find and manifest plays I love and
work with artists I truly respect and admire. Im most proud of the
fact that weve been working with the same design teamset,
light, costumes and violence design since 2007. Also, we have one resident
director, Ron Klier, who directs a lot fo what we do. He is one of my
closest friends and was also with VS. from the very beginning. VS. is
really like a close family.
Thank you for supporting VS. and live theatre. I cant wait to see you at VS. again. And please when the pandemic has run its course and its safe to go out, please go see plays all over town. There is so much good theatre to see here in Los Angeles and all over the country.