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The little
theater company that could

The little
theater company that could


Gen Q artists breathe new life into Los Angeles's historic Celebration Theatre.

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 Artists.

Over time, 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.

"Oh! My! 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.

"In a 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."

"And young 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."

Celebration 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

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