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Down But Not Out

Zan1It was very sad to receive the recent news  that one of  L.A.'s most durable and distinguished theater companies, the 30-year-old West Coast Ensemble, has phased out its structure as a membership group. Thankfully, the critically acclaimed, award-winning organization, launched by Les Hanson in 1981,  isn't  completely ceasing operation. WCE's plan is to seek out co-productions with other theater groups in the future. 

Having lost the Hollywood performing space on La Brea Avenue that had housed the group for many years, the company has spent the past several seasons on the move, renting various facilities around town. This has taken a toll on its financial stability and its ability to offer full or regular seasons.

The group has offered countless memorable productions over the years. Ironically, many of its shows during these difficult itinerant years have garnered some of the strongest accolades in the company's history, such as the glorious L.A. premiere of Tony Acito's enchanting gay-friendly musical, "Zanna, Don't!," a knockout revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins" and a brilliant staging of  Brian Christopher Williams'  beautiful and compassionate dramedy "Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins," which netted the author a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle writing award.

AnitaHiRes_2WCE is currently helmed by two co-artistic directors, the gifted and tireless Hanson and veteran local visionary Richard Israel (winner of LADDC's 2009 Milton Katselas Award, for his outstanding achievements in direction).

Hanson and Israel  recently made the following joint statement: "Over the past few years, it has become increasingly challenging for West Coast Ensemble to provide an artistic home for its membership. While WCE has continued to produce award-winning theater in a variety of spaces over the past several years, the membership component of the company has suffered due to the lack of a dedicated space." 

The gentlemen went on to say that it no longer made sense to collect dues from actors without providing them with the creative outlet.

SoCal Stages_blogCircumstances such as this represent  a great loss for L.A. audiences as well as for the creative community of actors, designers, directors, and producers.  Here's hoping  WCE continues getting the opportunities to produce the outstanding work it has been offering for three decades. 

Among my fondest memories from my earliest days of reviewing theater in L.A. in the mid-1990s, was discovering West Coast Ensemble upon one of my first Back Stage assignments. There are plenty of adventurous theatrical roads yet to be explored, and we look  forward to taking  more journeys with this dedicated and highly worthy organization for years to come.

--Les Spindle

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