Ensemble Studio Theatre


Ensemble Studio Theatre - The LA Project, one of LA's premier developmental theaters, is the West Coast branch of New York's renowned Ensemble Studio Theatre. Founded by Artistic Director Curt Dempster 30 years ago, Ensemble Studio Theatre provides a long-term artistic home to more than 450 member playwrights, actors, directors, and designers, among them winners of Academy, Emmy, Obie and Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. Our company has developed and launched some of the most accomplished voices in the American theater, including Christopher Durang, Richard Greenberg, David Mamet, Marsha Norman, Jose Rivera, Shel Silverstein, John Patrick Shanley, and Wendy Wasserstein.

Currently led by Artistic Directors Michael C. Mahon and Laura Jane Salvato, Ensemble Studio Theatre - The LA Project's on-going developmental activities include a Playwrights Unit led by Neil Cuthbert; Sunday Best, a weekly "artistic gymnasium" where actors, directors, and writers develop new work in an environment that supports creative risk (chaired by Susan Merson and Ray Xifo); and Solo Flights, a theatre laboratory conducted by Michael Connor that focuses on the development of solo pieces. The LA Project also presents two annual developmental festivals:

Over the past ten years, through its interwoven developmental programs and full productions, The LA Project has fostered more than 3,000 new American plays and nurtured hundreds of emerging and established theatre artists.



Ensemble Studio Theatre - The LA Project was established under Co-Artistic Directors Risa Bramon Garcia and Debra Stricklin in the fall of 1992. The company's early programming included monthly 'Salons' at members' homes around Los Angeles, and weekend artistic retreats at the Biltmore Hotel, Murietta Hot Springs, and Will Geer Theater Botanicaum.

In 1994, The LA Project presented its first WINTERFEST, a three-day festival of member-initiated readings that introduced 24 plays to the Los Angeles audience. Many were subsequently produced in LA, New York, and Chicago. Selections from this festival became part of The LA Project's one-act series Summer Shorts, co-produced with The Fountain Theatre.

In 1995, WINTERFEST featured 37 new plays over 4 days, including "Doing Lunch" which moved to Ensemble Studio Theatre's Marathon Festival of New One Act Plays in New York. Other pieces were adapted for film: "Women Without Implants" by Anne DeSalvo became an award-winning short film, and "Miles and Nicky" by Peter Berg inspired his feature film directorial debut, Very Bad Things.

In 1996, The LA Project produced the company-wide event, First Look LA. Over a period of four months, producer Sarah Finn and twenty-five company members and friends read and critiqued more than 500 new plays from across the United States. The best work was presented to packed houses over a period of two weekends at The Lost Studio. In total, 25 new plays were introduced, including Theresa Rebeck's A View of the Dome (subsequently produced in LA, New York, regionally, and published by Samuel French). Also the full-length comedy Expecting Bobby went on to a successful, critically acclaimed eight-week run at The Odyssey Theater, co-produced by The LA Project and The Odyssey Theater Ensemble.

Following this success, The LA Project was commissioned by Home Box Office to bring a theater presence to the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. Our company conducted a nation-wide search for the best new comedic writing, acting and directing talent. A play selection committee evaluated more than 800 plays over a six-month process. Our company premiered nine of these in Aspen, winning the festival's highest honor, the MCI Jury Award for Outstanding Performance. The following year, we returned to Aspen at the invitation of HBO, bringing five new plays selected from more than 1,200 entries.

During the 1998-99 season, under the Artistic Direction of Garrett M. Brown and James Eckhouse, The LA Project became a resident company at Theatre/Theater on Hollywood Boulevard at the invitation of Nicolette Chaffey and Jeff Murray. In addition to our regular programming, we presented the premiere of The Underground Soap at Café Club Fais Do-Do. Under the creative direction of Laura Jane Salvato and Patricia Scanlon, this multi-plot cabaret incorporated live music and four interwoven storylines that unfolded over several weeks. In June 1999, the company co-produced FIRST LOOK / FULL LENGTHS with the Falcon Theatre in Burbank featuring rehearsed, staged-readings of four new full-length plays under consideration for future production. One month later we launched a new developmental program to address the unique challenges of solo work (Solo Flights), and presented a series of original solo pieces at the HBO Workspace.

In 2000-2001, The LA Project produced the world premiere of Michael Connor's Berkshire Village Idiot, directed by James Eckhouse and produced by Laura Jane Salvato at the Gascon Center Theatre (nominated for an LA Weekly Award for Solo Performance). Berkshire Village Idiot, which will transfer to New York this season, was developed in Solo Flights and Sunday Best. FIRST LOOK / FULL LENGTHS 2000 featured Coca-Cola Snakie by Colin Mitchell, Bing by Jacqueline Wright (subsequently produced by Theatre of NOTE), Lily-Livered Creche by Elizabeth Logun, and Home by Dusk by Garrett M. Brown.

FIRST LOOK / FULL LENGTHS 2001 featured And Still the Dogs by Brian Cousins, The Law Makes Evening Fall by Sherry Kramer, The Great Wall by David Levinson, and Beyond the Sea by Susan Merson. Both And Still the Dogs and The Great Wall went on to full production the following year.

In October/November 2001, under the Artistic Direction of Michael C. Mahon and Laura Jane Salvato, The LA Project took part in the Edge of the World Theater Festival, presenting twelve performances of COME, four solo pieces by Michael Connor, Jennifer Nicole Lynn, Louis Mustillo and Patricia Scanlon at Theatre/Theater. WINTERFEST 2002 was expanded to include Wednesday performances and featured over 35 projects.

Beginning March 7, 2002 for six weeks, The LA Project presented the world premiere of the Ovation and LA Weekly Award-nominated And Still the Dogs by Brian Cousins, directed by Dan Bonnell at Hollywood's Lillian Theatre. This critically acclaimed "modern noir" mystery examined America's arrogance and naiveté in our dealings with other nations and posed timely questions about our nation's responsibility when importing our culture to the rest of the world (Executive Produced by Laura Jane Salvato, Produced by Alison Graham Faggen). A Noir Nite Silent Auction at Creative Space (Chaired by Lori Shearer) benefitted the play and added to the fun.

Also in March, The LA Project collaborated with the American Film Institute to present staged readings of excerpts from six new scholarship-winning screenplays in the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Sloan Film Summit at The Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills.

FIRST LOOK 2002 featured In Between by J. Holtham, What Remains by Susan Merson, Dunston's Pub by Colin Mitchell, and Toes by Shira Zeltzer. The festival ran May 30 - June 9, 2002 and was produced by Susan Merson and Jenny O'Hara.

We proudly collaborate with HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles Youth) in a youth outreach program for children aged 5-19 years.


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