Don Shirley page at LA Observed

Don Shirley writes about theater for LA Observed. He is the former longtime theater writer for the Los Angeles Times, LA Stage Times and other publications.

The essence of theater is that we leave home and enter that intersection between live performers and live spectators -- in a public, physical locale. How is that going to happen until most audience members and artists are vaccinated?
Our columnist offers his thoughts on several plays currently running on Los Angeles-area stages.
Looking for a New Year's resolution? Try seeing more LA theater in 2020.
Anyone who cares about LA theater should have read Charles McNulty's recent essay. But perhaps you missed a couple of subsequent developments.
You've heard of the old gimmick of beginning an ad (or an article) with the word "SEX" followed by the words "Now that I've got your attention..."
I've recently seen four productions around LA that succeed as great American adventure stories.
Women's voices dominate Center Theatre Group's June offerings -- but with a twist.
The LAT's home-turf focus hasn't filtered down to its coverage of the topic that professionally interests me the most -- Southern California's vast and lively theater scene.
I'd like to propose a challenge to Center Theatre Group as it begins to consider which productions might make up the 2020 Block Party.
"Ragtime" at the Pasadena Playhouse is, among other distinctions, a great way to observe Black History Month.
Here are some of my personal favorites from 2018. But first my usual caveat. I've seen 155 productions in greater LA, fewer than half of those that were available.
'Dear Evan Hansen' and 'Quack' show the power - and the problems -- of viral social media in two otherwise very different productions.
Don Shirley recommends "Native Gardens" in Pasadena, "The Cake" in Westwood Village and "Gloria" in Atwater Village.
It's the season for outdoor productions that are worth the effort to go see.
For two weeks in May, two of CTG's three main stages were occupied by plays mostly set in or around the Los Angeles area.
As a theater critic in a city famous for making movies, I sometimes meet new acquaintances who assume that I see a lot of movies and TV. Sorry, but no. Usually.
"Cambodian Rock Band," "Allegiance," "The New Colossus," "A Raisin in the Sun," "Sell/Buy/Date" and more.
Awakening of local theater for the new year, and Donald Trump's first anniversary, are not entirely unrelated.
Looking back at a pivotal year, plus some recommendations to enjoy during the holiday season.
Neighborhoods change. Change often causes conflict. Conflict is usually an important ingredient of drama.
In two remarkable new plays, same-sex Angeleno couples are traveling with their parents or other older relatives. Bigger topics become involved.
I'm glad the Times has returned to its long tradition of including theater coverage every Friday, but the new column would benefit from a clarification of how it operates.
Don Shirley wonders how Donald Trump's white power allies would feel about the casting of black actors as Washington and Jefferson. He also writes that "Hamilton" is no "kumbaya version of how happy we'll all be if we can just get along."
I didn't want to be less acquainted with "Hamilton" than so many other people who also haven't seen it. So I embarked on a pre-"Hamilton" syllabus.
Our columnist sees spring plays from South Coast Repertory, the Mark Taper, Latino Theater Company, Ebony Repertory, Open Fist Theatre and the Bootleg.
Fountain Theatre is assuming an especially prominent profile this week, with concurrent productions at two venues.
CTG's "Remote L.A." is not a traditional city tour. But it does go outside.
January 21 was a great day for immersive theater in Los Angeles.
My year-end highlights list gives me a chance to admire productions that I didn't mention earlier in the year.
Two major productions in LA right now more or less begin with scenes set in LA - which is so unusual on our larger stages that I'm happy to salute any effort to examine our own community.
The telenovela genre embraces the theater in "Destiny of Desire," Karen Zacarias' wildly funny play at South Coast Repertory.
Davidson reached his most public pinnacle of success when Center Theatre three plays nominated for Broadway's best-play Tony Award.
Have you seen any alfresco theater yet this summer? Our columnist has.
I was watching Musical Theatre West's revival of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" in Long Beach when Donald Trump invaded my thoughts.
Kudos to CTG for lending a helpful hand to smaller theaters and reviving selected local productions next spring at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Don Shirley surveys the state of women on the local stage and offers some recommendations.
Remarkable "Children of Eden" comes through to help save Thousand Oaks' Cabrillo Music Theatre. Plus more local theater.
No, a new novel's "LA Observer" is not a thinly veiled reference to LA Observed. It's a thinly veiled reference to the LA Weekly.
Two plays named after cities, plus some productions set around Los Angeles.
Epps broke a racial barrier at the Pasadena Playhouse. His tenure will be remembered for much more.
Let's begin by commending CTG's current programming at the Music Center: "The Christians" and "The Bridges of Madison County." Both you can still see on stage.
After this week's Ovation Awards, I am suggesting - and hoping - that more producers, writers and actors start thinking about larger theater venues.
How to attract young-adult audiences to LA's professional theaters? Here are two productions that are trying.
Two of the area's larger theaters are compensating for CTG's apathy toward its home town with productions about Eastside garment workers.
Watts Village Theater Company is observing the 50th anniversary of its community's most famous historical moment. And more local productions.
Alfresco theater is one of the best features of an LA summer, yet the big LA media usually ignore it. The Theatricum in Topanga Canyon is having an especially strong season.
With the end of Actors' Equity's 99-Seat Theater Plan now scheduled for next June, some suggestions for the transition. Plus 'Bad Jews' and 'The Heir Apparent.'
You may have heard that LA's 99-seat theaters are about to enter a year of living on the edge.
Two musicals currently playing in LA are at least partially set in bygone days of LA's pop music business. Both of them focus on music-industry pioneers.
Examining some local theater companies that know how to use the strengths of their own spaces and how to manage their finances.
I don't understand why Blythe Danner's words were chosen to receive the spotlight in a full-page LA Times ad about Actors' Equity and minimum wage.
LA's theatrical landscape would still offer plenty of options for dedicated theatergoers, even without Equity's 99-seat plan.
Shirley also reviews "Cineastas," which closes Saturday at REDCAT downtown.
One of two musicals that opened over the weekend lives up to the expression "gotta sing, gotta dance."
The ephemeral art of theater deserves an annual recap of the year's highlights. Of the 225 productions in greater LA I saw this year, here are 25 of the best.
More than once, I've asked publicly how Center Theatre Group can possibly justify branding itself as 'LA's Theatre Company.' So I was fascinated when Diane Rodriguez, one of CTG's three associate artistic directors, raised the subject in an interview. Plus: Current stage reviews.
From a theatergoer's point of view, "choices" are almost always more dramatically engaging than unchosen "orientations."
Shirley checks in on 'Zealot' at SCR, 'Pippin' at the Pantages, 'Big Fish' in Long Beach and 'Spring Awakening' from Deaf West Theatre.
I can't report that everything on the Encuentro stages is wonderful, but from now through November 10 there is certainly a lot more to choose from than there has been at LATC in recent years. Isn't it about time that LA got a concentrated dose of Latino theater?
Five current SoCal productions in which the writers freshened material with surprising what-if twists, while not falling into unconvincing fantasylands.
The minimum wage discussion has spread into the realm of Los Angeles theater, where many actors and actors are paid far less than even the current minimum. Questions are being raised about the future of the 99-Seat Theater Plan, formerly known as Equity Waiver.
CTG's website vowed to produce programming that "reflects and informs our own community" through "stories inspired on our own streets." But that language was removed two years ago.
Plans for the Ford Theatre in Cahuenga Pass could turn into "the most important new theater/dance-specific venue in LA since the construction of LATC three decades ago."
The outdoors venues in Los Angeles this summer constitute one of America's largest Shakespearean hotspots. Let Don Shirley be your guide.
After five years of Hollywood Fringe, Shirley doesn't care how many newcomers it attracts to LA. He likes the Fringe for the structure it provides established LA artists to develop their work.
Geffen Playhouse is producing two premieres simultaneously. One of them is wonderful. The other isn't. Plus: Kudos on two plays moving up from LA's 99-seat world.
Shirley hears the howls from the hills of Griffith Park and also checks out 'Horror Camp-Out,' 'Flag Day,' 'Beijing Spring' and more plays on stages around Los Angeles.
Why isn't Center Theatre Group turning out substantive and powerful dramatizations of American history that demonstrate how the past informs and affects present-day America? Or groundbreaking plays about Los Angeles?
Couples counseling is in session in two rousing productions downtown at Los Angeles Theatre Center -- and in some other theaters around greater LA.
It might seem inconceivable that a spoiler is possible for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at The Broad Stage. Also "Rest" at SCR.
One of the best midsize venues for professional theater in LA County is on the stage of La Mirada Theatre, adjacent to the actors.
They look as different as day and night - "A Song at Twilight" at Pasadena Playhouse and "Reunion" at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. Yet they share a common bond.
"Harmony" is redeeming Center Theatre Group's stubborn faith in the subject of young guys' bands. It's by far the best of the lot.
From his seat in the audience at REDCAT on Saturday, Randy Reinholz booed. He is the founding artistic director of Native Voices, the Native American theater company based at the Autry that is currently offering the premiere of "Stand-Off at Hwy #37."
Don Shirley takes in five local plays, from the savagely funny "Tartuffe" at A Noise Within to a Long Beach production of "The Music Man" and a Civil War-era Passover seder.
Sex, basketball and cheerleaders: Two productions that opened over the weekend share these topics. Plus: Nyet on 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.'
These are the first LA Observed reviews by Don Shirley, the former theater columnist and reporter for LA Stage Times, the Los Angeles Times, CityBeat and KCRW. His reviews will appear here regularly.

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