The show must go
on. And nowhere does that old stage adage prove more
potent than within the hallowed halls of Los
Angeles's historic Celebration Theatre. Since
its inception in 1982, this unique company of actors
and artists has stood as Southern California's only
community-based troupe dedicated exclusively to progressive
gay and lesbian theater.
In a history
rich with queer creativity, the company once played to
sold-out houses night after night. Standing ovations greeted
its productions of smash hit shows like Naked Boys
Singing! and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
There were rave reviews for controversial stagings, such as
Stephen Sondheim's Marry Me a Little
with an all-male cast. And queer-friendly
commendations were quick in coming from reputable
observers--publications like Drama-Logue
and Back Stage West and organizations
including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation and the Alliance of Gay and Lesbian
however, financial mismanagement and artistic differences
over the theater's direction led to a creative
decline. Poorly produced performances with blatantly
pornographic overtones were mounted on minuscule
budgets. Bills went unpaid, equipment went uncared for, and
the group's reputation sank. It seemed as if
the proverbial fat lady had sung her infamous end-all
aria for Celebration Theatre...until a new generation
of Gen Q artists stumbled upon the floundering troupe.
God! The theater was a nightmare!" exclaims new
artistic director Michael Matthews. "It was so
gross! It took three of us three months of
cleaning just to see the floor in places! But when you
work this hard at turning something around, you fall in love
with it even more."
Having honed his
directorial skills in Chicago black-box theater,
Matthews was ready to sell Celebration's revamped
image to the LGBT public, one ticket at a time. To
accomplish this, he restructured the troupe with an
eager team of talented Gen Q performers.
youth-driven culture it is incumbent on us to effect the
kind of changes that keep a theater resonant and alive
to all its patrons," explains producing
director Allain Rochel. "New voices and new ways of
telling new stories were necessary."
"Yes, we are a
younger company of actors," elaborates office manager
David Tarlow. "But we have the combined abilities to make
Celebration succeed and thrive. We're taking the theater and
its mission up a few notches."
"[It's] fascinating how much diversity
Celebration's company now has," says
company member Nathan Frizzell. "Gay and lesbian,
heterosexual, young and old...our diversity has
made Celebration accessible to new audiences."
guys selling tickets in tank tops ain't bad for
business either," jokes company member Jason
Moyer. "Our theater's a great place to
be young, gay, and artistic."
Last year the
company wrapped its first comprehensive season in several
years, ending with the world premiere musical Play
It Cool, which garnered both critical and
public acclaim. "We are doing work that looks at
where we are going, where we are from, and what is
happening right now," affirms Matthews.
"When young people are given this opportunity, they
start to take ownership and make it their own. That is
community, and that is pride."
Theatre's current production is Rochel's adaptation of
Euripedes' The Bacchae, directed by Matthews.
In the ancient Greek original it was the women of Thebes who
went mad with sexual desire; in this "radical
reimagining" it's young gay men on the West Hollywood
club scene. For tickets or more information call
(323) 957-1884 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.