Issue: Issue Winter 2000/2001

Hollywood's Long Tradition

Hollywood has a long tradition of live theatre. Today theatre in Hollywood varies from far-out experiments to the most popular entertainment, and it plays everywhere—tiny, store-front theatres to art deco palaces. You will find new plays, old plays, musicals—almost anything—performed by fanatic thespians, about-to-be-discovered actors and accomplished well-known TV and film personalities.

With the blessing of a special contract with Actors Equity (the legitimate theatre actors’ union), actors’ compensation is far below scale and often their pay is only in having the opportunity to perfect their craft in the myriad of small theatres (under 99 seats) that abound in Hollywood. The quality of productions vary, but local theatre-goers will tell you that experiencing theatre in an intimate setting is well worth it.

Today’s actor is not the inexperienced “face” discovered sipping soda at a Hollywood lunch counter. More often than not, he or she is an experienced professional who has paid “dues” in New York or regional theatre. 

This past fall Hollywood welcomed Disney’s “The Lion King” to the Pantages Theatre—a theatrical phenomenon unmatched anywhere. Nearby Valerie Hopper graced the 240-seat Ivar Theatre in a one-woman tribute to Pearl Buck. At the always innovative Stages Theatre Centre, an outdoor stage replicating a bull ring offered an interesting dialogue between matador and bull in a play from South America. These were just three of a selection that averages 50 or more each weekend.

No one knows when a hit will happen so always call for information. Interestingly, unlike New York, plays don’t close because of bad reviews—usually it’s the loss of a key player to a TV or movie role. After all, this is Hollywood.