May 29, 2003


SRO Reloaded

Second Theatre LA conference kicks it up a notch.


by Rob Kendt


"There are too many unpaid administrators and too many unpaid artists in L.A. theatre," said Theatre LA president and CEO Lee Wochner last week as he discussed plans for the second SRO Conference, June 2-3. "We have the best performing arts scene in the world. We have enormous assets--potential leverage and power that we're not fully using. And a movement that would help get more people paid for their work is a movement we'd like to be a part of leading."


To that end, this year's SRO Conference is geared toward more in-depth and hands-on work than last year's momentous gathering at Cal Arts, where, Wochner said, the theme was culture in community. "We wanted to remove the notion that theatres are in competition," he said. "And it now seems to be a given that we're all working together; we feel we've achieved something with that."


Between feedback from last year's participants and focus groups with Theatre LA member theatres, new themes emerged.


"At one of the focus groups, Stefanie Wong from East West Players said, 'The thing that brought you to this place will not necessarily take you further,' " recalled Wochner. "Thus this year's SRO has the subtitle 'Rethink, Rebuild, Revive,' which will encourage theatre makers to rethink your operation, rethink your mission, and from your rethinking rebuild, and you will find you are revived."


Other topics requested by participants and reflected in this year's sessions include time management, avoiding burnout, and making the move from small to mid-sized theatre. New this year is a special "Leadership Institute," a one-day intensive designed for theatre companies that want to develop their boards. Created in conjunction with the nonprofit Executive Service Corps, the institute is designed, said Wochner, as "Stage One of a yearlong process whereby Theatre LA is going to partner with Executive Service Corps to provide access to theatres for executives who want to be part of boards." Spaces in this leadership intensive are limited to 40 and are nearly full.


Keynote speakers include a pair of actors with deep theatre roots: French Stewart, LACC graduate and alumni of Hollywood's Cast Theatre, who will open in the Colony Studio Theatre's production of The Nerd on June 7, and William H. Macy, charter member of the Mamet mafia and--continuing a trend begun last year with keynote speakers Alfred Molina and Don Cheadle--a cast member of the film Boogie Nights.


The conference is $270 per person ($225 for each additional person); the Leadership Institute is an additional $75 per person. Register by calling (213) 614-0556, ext. 12, or online at the Back Stage West is among the conference's sponsors, which also include Cal Arts, LA Stage Magazine, USC, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, and the California Arts Council.