Theaters that thrive today were once just the dream of one or two directors wanting to build a home for the arts. Following are some of those people whose realized dreams make our theater experiences possible.
Independent Shakespeare Co.
3191 Casitas Ave., #168
Los Angeles, 90039
Anyone who has attended an evening of theater at the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival knows about David Melville. He is the managing director and co-founder of the Independent Shakespeare Company (ISC), as well as the fabulous actor who transforms himself for audiences into Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard II and so many other characters. At Griffith Park, thousands enjoy free outdoor theater Thursday through Sunday during the summer months. This year, the company will be back on June 27 at the location of the Old Zoo to perform “Macbeth” and “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare, and “She Stoops to Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith. Under Melville’s direction, the ISC has grown from the 14 people (and a dog) who attended their first performance at Barnsdall Park in 2003 to the 38,000 people who attended the 2012 season at Griffith Park.
Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
The husband-and-wife team made up of Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott is the artistic direction behind the wonderful performances at A Noise Within (ANW), and its relatively new theater in Pasadena. Both of them hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Florida and a Master of Fine Arts from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. With the dream of developing a theater house that would present sophisticated work to audiences of all ways of life, they began ANW in 1991 with $3,000 out of their savings. Today, their gorgeous theater presents some of the best productions of the classics in the Los Angeles area. Besides directing, Mr. Elliott is a mesmerizing actor who performs a principal role in some of the plays presented by ANW each year. Ms. Rodriguez-Elliott uses her teaching skills to conduct workshops that form part of the ANW’s educational program. She has received multiple awards for her work within the theater community and in 2010 was named one of Fifty Fabulous Women of Influence in the San Gabriel Valley.
Dolf Ramos and Marco Gomez
The Met Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
The “Do” of Dolf Ramos and the “Ma” of Marco Gomez named the Doma Theatre Company, the venture that began in 2002 to provide help to young talent and has grown to develop full seasons of Broadway-like musicals and other shows. The theater’s current production of “Dreamgirls” continues at the MET Theatre in Los Angeles until April 1. First a musical, then a movie, “Dreamgirls” is inspired by show biz stories from the 1960s and by artists like The Supremes, James Brown and others. This is the second season that DOMA presents an all-musicals repertoire. “Sweet Charity” will follow May 17 through June 23, followed by productions of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” The goal of Ramos and Gomez through DOMA is to inspire. They want to expose the new generation of Angelenos to live theater and to give a chance to young talent in need of showing their skills. The directors take no proceeds from the DOMA productions, but instead re-invest the funds in it, its crew and its talent.
Sierra Madre Playhouse
87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd,
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
There are still a few days left to see “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, the latest play directed by Christian Lebano, who also serves on the board of this theater. This latest play has been a success since it started in January, prompting the playhouse to extend performances until March 30. Lebano is no stranger to the theater circuit in town. Also an actor, he has also performed at multiple theaters like the International City Theatre in Long Beach and has directed other premieres in local venues, including the Zephyr Theater and FirstStage Theater.
Randy Reinholz and Jean Bruce Scott
Native Voices at The Autry
Wells Fargo Theater at Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Husband-and-wife team Randy Reinholz (of the Choctaw Nation) and Jean Bruce Scott co-founded Native Voices at the Autry, which is the country’s only Equity theater company devoted solely to develop the work of Native American playwrights. Their upcoming project is the Festival of New Plays at The Autry, which will be held May 29-31 and will consist of staged readings of unique plays with interesting stories to tell. The three plays selected are “The Healer’s Remains” by Lori Favela (Yankton Sioux), “Stand-Off at Hwy 37” by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora, Six Nations of the Grand River) and “Where Have All the Warriors Gone?” by Darrell Dennis (Shuswap). More information can be found on the link noted above.
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Dena Burroughs is a freelance writer living in Azusa, CA. She is a CSULA graduate with specialties in Creative Writing and Communications. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.