Jason Alexander on the State of Los Angeles Theater

When he’s not acting in TV, stage and film, Jason Alexander is busy behind the scenes as the artistic director of L.A.’s Reprise Theatre Company.

He recently told the LA Times his thoughts on the state of musical theater and the Los Angeles theater scene in general.

“The thing I cannot fathom here is that on any given day, there’s more theater happening in Los Angeles than there is in New York,” he said. “But none of them are getting any kind of real solid, reliable support.”

Really? There’s more theater in L.A. than New York City? I’ll take his word for it but I do agree that theater in L.A. doesn’t get any respect, much less support. What do you think?

Check out his comments below.

People are always taking the temperature of musical theater. So how’s it doing?

It depends on where you are. Certainly in New York, you can’t find a play on Broadway right now — they’re all musicals. L.A. is a very strange town for theater in general, but the things that do make big splashes here are certain musicals. They tend to be spectacular event musicals — “Lion King,” “The Producers,” ” Wicked.” There’s a definite audience for it, and Reprise has had that audience as our subscriber base going on 15 years now. But the truth is, doing theater in L.A. is just hard. The problem is in theater, like every other medium in our business right now, the business models are all straining at the seams. And producing a musical is a very expensive proposition, and the only way anyone knows to compensate for it right now is to keep raising the ticket prices. Certainly in New York, but we have to be careful of it here too, you can price yourself right out of your audience. The average person cannot spend $100 a ticket to go see a musical for an evening, and when you add travel and parking and food, you’re almost at $150, $200 per person. That’s untenable. All of us have to come up with a new way of doing these things where they can be done with integrity and artistry, but we’re not making our audience elitist.

What do you think is strange about the L.A. theater scene?

What’s strange about it is there are so many people here in the arts — so many actors, writers and directors and people who oversee the business end of making what they hope will be an artistic product. But it’s extremely hard to get and sustain an audience of theatergoers here. The thing I cannot fathom here is that on any given day, there’s more theater happening in Los Angeles than there is in New York. There are more of these little 99-seat waiver theaters; there must be 250 little shows happening this weekend, and that eclipses New York. But none of them are getting any kind of real solid, reliable support. Certainly Center Theatre Group and the Geffen do consistently well; despite its financial troubles the Pasadena Playhouse — as far as audience attendance — does consistently well. But it’s very, very hard for all the other little theater companies, no matter how interesting the product is they’re putting out there. I don’t know what the answer is, other than the theater is an expensive proposition, and when it disappoints, it disappoints big.

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