Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
While there are other, more tragic matters happening in the world, such as the recovery from this week's tsunami in Southeast Asia. But with a body count at 77,000 and rising, I can't even handle statistics that staggering (that's the entire population of my hometown times five). So instead I focus on smaller, more personal tragedies.

And one emerged yesterday as John Beane, the artistic director of Fullerton's Insurgo Theater Movement, announced that the company is taking a six-month sabbatical while they find a new performance space. While I do not doubt that they will be able to secure a new location, the tone of the announcement was rather somber.

Insurgo is a truly wonderful theater company. They had a variety of tastes in their projects, from lesser-known shows ("This Is Our Youth", "Jack and Jill") to reworkings of Shakespeare ("R3", "H", "Taming of the Shrew"), to stagings of popular literary works ("Dracula", "Wuthering Heights"), to original pieces ("Loaded", "Heaven's Cafe"). It is probably the most eclectic company in Orange County, and whether their hiatus be for six-months or longer, they will be sorely missed.

Orange County theater is a difficult thing to maintain. The O.C. is a conservative spot in the normally liberal Southern California area, and most of the theaters that make money in this county produce easy, mainstream shows (Neil Simon and Andrew Lloyd Webber are the saints of these companies). Even edgier big theaters like Laguna Playhouse and South Coast Repertory are still pretty tame when compared to the theatre communities in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

Those truly liberal, edgy theaters - run by working class citizens with limited budgets - deal with original or lesser-known works, and several of the theater owners have trouble promoting these projects. As such, the audience turnout is generally low.

The problem is, those audiences that clamor for the mainstream do not realize that they are being robbed. They give those theaters their money to see something that they have seen before. It does not challenge them, it does not make them think. It just flashes shiny things in front of their eyes.

I beg you, all of you, go see some theater. Some GOOD theater. Stay away from theaters that have the word "Community" in their name. Renounce the outdated bilge that is Neil Simon. There are several small theaters in Orange County that are producing unconventional shows that will excite and stimulate you in ways that you never thought possible. Here are four such companies:

Hunger Artists - I know I talk endlessly about this company, but it is for a reason. In my opinion, no other company in this county comes up with as good of theatre, has more interesting fundraiser or is able to juggle the balance between the original and the accessible like they do. This past year, they produced "How I Learned to Drive", "Assassins", an updating of the "Medea" tale and the West Coast premiere of "The Gog/Magog Project".

Maverick Theater - The tragedy of Maverick was the predecessor to that of Insurgo. They had a lush location at an outdoor mall in Orange, which was great for selling tickets. Meanwhile, they could vary crowd-pleasers and classics like "Romeo & Juliet" and "The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" with more original works like "The King" and a Nazi Germany adaptation of "Frankenstein".

Rude Guerrilla - No other theater in Orange County is more consistently shocking than these guys. No subject is taboo, and no social abnormality has gone unexamined. They are known for their quality productions of Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Kane works, and actually broke into the Los Angeles theatre scene this past year.

STAGEStheatre - Stages does lesser-known plays, like their stellar production of "Red Noses", and originals, including the works of Joel Beers, and they know how to make a show look good. Good casts, good directors, great sets. They know how to make a show look as professional as small theater can get.

So go see a show. See several of them for 2005. Find a theater that you like and donate to them. Audition for a show. Help build sets. Do something to help what is the greatest and fastest-dying art form known to man. It will change your life, I promise you.

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