September 28, 2000
Starting this week, L.A. theatregoers have a new publication to keep them informed—and L.A. theatres, big to small, will have a new venue for feature coverage. Called L.A. Stage, the glossy publication will begin modestly as a quarterly until it can gather momentum from subscribers and advertisers to go monthly.
Bringing L.A. Stage to the page are some familiar faces to L.A. theatre: editor Lee Melville, former editor of Drama-Logue, and Theatre LA, the membership organization which, under the leadership of longtime theatre producer and booster Lars Hansen, has stepped up its efforts to market the assets of L.A. theatre to Southland audiences and potential audiences.
"It's a focused, niche sort of publication—a consumer magazine for theatregoers," said Hansen. Indeed, the first issue will go out free to a targeted list of 5,000, culled from Theatre LA member theatres. "The names we have are all people who've bought tickets four or five times in the last year," said Hansen. The subscription price after the first free issue will be $35 a year.
Advertising is the other pillar of support for the magazine, which is going ahead minus any capital. Theatre LA's staff is helping to put it out, and the publisher of Performing Arts, the glossy program magazine, is giving L.A. Stage a generous cost-only deal for its printing. "We're starting with a lot of wonderful, dedicated help and support from the initial advertisers," said Hansen. "If they and the readers think it's of value, it will grow."
L.A. Stage's mission, editor Melville explained, is "three-pronged. The first is to reach the subscribers of the major theatres, see if they'll subscribe to other theatres. The second is to reach occasional theatregoers and see if they'll go more often, maybe even subscribe, or go to smaller theatres like the Actors' Gang or the Colony. And the third is to reach those who never go to the theatre—to find out why they don't go and what would interest them. That group will be the hardest to reach," Melville admitted.
Despite its consumer focus, it will not include reviews—at least in part due to the long lead-time logistics of a monthly publication. In their place will be features focused not only theatre companies but on nightlife options for theatregoers, opening night coverage, and the thoughts of theatregoers themselves.
"We want to have an article from the viewpoint of the theatregoer every month—from a person who's not an actor or a theatre person, who just goes to the theatre," said Melville. For his part, since leaving Drama-Logue in early 1991, Melville continued attending the theatre faithfully, most recently as a voter for Theatre LA's Ovation awards. His new post at L.A. Stage will give him the best of both worlds: Now he can cover the shows he sees, though not with reviews.
"It's great to be getting back into publishing," said Melville. "It's reinvigorated me. My friends have noticed a change."
We're banking that L.A. theatre will notice a change, as well.