History of The Road Theatre Company
With the help of the City of Los Angeles' Cultural Affairs Department, THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY has enjoyed an amazing eleven-year history. During these exciting eleven years, THE ROAD has found homes in three uniquely different theatre spaces throughout Los Angeles. The company was born in a huge warehouse space in Sun Valley. We then relocated to another warehouse, this time in Van Nuys. Finally, THE ROAD settled into its most recent and most beautiful home -- the historic LANKERSHIM ARTS CENTER in North Hollywood.
During the eleven years the company's main stage productions have been honored with 6 "Critic's Choice" selections from the Los Angeles Times, 4 "Pick of the Week" selections from L.A. Weekly, 7 "Critic’s Pick" selections from Back Stage West, 48 Valley Theatre League Artistic Director Achievement (ADA) Awards, 8 Drama Critics Circle Awards, 1 L.A. Weekly Award, 5 Robby Awards, 27 Back Stage West Garland Awards "Honorable Mention," and 9 Ovation Awards. Additionally, the company was awarded the 1998 Drama Critics Circle’s prestigious Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatre 2003 Back Stage West Landmark Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatre. The company has been blessed financially with grants from the City of Los Angeles as well as many generous monetary and in-kind donations from private foundations and individual donors. Moreover, the company has provided numerous community outreach programs forging strong links to the community and creating valuable new audiences for the theatre.
In July, 1991, a group of dedicated theatre artists and administrators came together to form The Other Side of the Hill Productions, Inc. a.k.a. THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY. THE ROAD is a non-profit corporation that produces theatre under the Actor's Equity Association 99-Seat Plan. The company has a mandate to produce original and innovative material, as well as classic plays that deal with social and political issues relevant to today's world. THE ROAD's constitution requires the company to provide some form of community service in conjunction with every theatrical production (i.e., benefit performances, community-accessible classes, etc.). Members of THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY have taught theatre to high-risk youth and provided opportunities for area children to learn about and participate in the theatrical process.
As 1992 drew to a close, THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY faced an uncertain future. Although the company's artistic track record was well established, its financial status was less secure. Enter the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and the 1% Arts Fee Program. Thanks to this very generous grant, the company was able take up residence in a spacious Van Nuys warehouse. Along with this move, the company restructured its leadership and moved boldly into the future.
In June of 1993, we opened our third full season. The 1993-94 season included five original plays, four of which were World Premieres. Leading things off was Paul A. Hapenny's VIG which received unanimous critical acclaim and 3 Drama-Logue Awards. The winning tradition continued with MOONCALF by Leon Martell (4 Drama-Logue Awards) and Barbara Lindsay's THE WALKERS (L.A. Times "Critic's Choice") directed by FRASIER’s Dan Butler. The Daily News gave "Three Stars" to the company's next production, FREAK OF NATURE by Ken Hanes. The season finale, Mark Lee's PIRATES, received "Critic's Choice" from Drama-Logue, 6 Drama-Logue Awards, and 2 ADA Awards. THE ROAD’s 1993-94 season was summed up in this review from NoHo Magazine: "[The Road] is offering some of the most consistently electric and dramatic theatre in Los Angeles...there is a degree of craftsmanship at work here not readily available in the majority of theatres in this city."
The Company's tradition of bringing World Premieres to Los Angeles continued into the 1994-95 season with three new plays. The season began with a bang, receiving "Critic's Choice" from the Los Angeles Times for THE CHISHOLM TRAIL WENT THROUGH HERE by Brady Sewell Thomas. The World Premiere of Jon Bastian's PETTY TREASONS also received critical praise which led to our final production in Van Nuys.
MY LAST CONFESSION by Douglas Scott Delaney was an audience favorite, "Critic's Choice" in Drama-Logue, and recipient of 5 Drama-Logue Awards.
In March of 1995, the City of Los Angeles and the Cultural Affairs Department came through for THE ROAD once again. THE ROAD was selected (out of a field of 100 applicants) as the lead organization of a multicultural arts consortium called the Community Arts Coalition. The Community Arts Coalition operated the LANKERSHIM ARTS CENTER at 5108 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood until December of 1998.
After a six-month hiatus (during which time the company reorganized and moved into its new space on Lankershim), THE ROAD mounted the boards again with the stunning World Premiere production of Ron McLarty's AKELA. AKELA earned the company its 2nd "Pick of the Week" selection from the LA Weekly, along with other outstanding reviews, and won 2 Drama-Logue Awards. THE ROAD then took on the enormous task of mounting the two-part six-hour translation of MERLIN by Tankred Dorst. MERLIN was offered as part of a 6-week multicultural festival entitled MAGIC, MUSIC, & MADNESS. THE ROAD joined forces with the other members of The Community Arts Coalition to present music, dance, theatre and visual art "...With consummate daring, imagination and energy…" (Drama-Logue "Critic's Choice"). MERLIN received 6 ADA Awards from the Valley Theatre League including Best Production of a Revival Play, as well as 2 Drama-Logue Awards. We ended our 1995 season with a series of one-acts written by the Golden West Playwrights, a group of California playwrights associated with THE ROAD. The evening of one-acts plays, entitled ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, won 1 Drama-Logue Award and 1 ADA Award. VISAS AND VIRTUE, one of the plays produced in this evening of one-acts, was written by ROAD THEATRE COMPANY Artistic Board member Timothy Toyama, who developed the play into a short film which won the Academy Award in 1998 for Best Live Action Short.
As we moved boldly into 1996 we took on the West Coast Premiere of James Morrison's IDLE WHEELS. This dark and disturbing play about an Alaskan family dealing with alcoholism, was summed up by the Daily News which said that it was "...grippingly performed by the Road Theatre…viewers feel trapped in this situation -- silent witnesses to a tragedy they know is coming and want desperately to prevent." Our season continued with the enormously successful West Coast Premiere of Jack Heifner's HOME FIRES. "The always ambitious Road Theatre Company turns in some of its best work ever in the West Coast premiere of this moody, muscular drama." ... the Daily News "Three Stars". "Unwavering emotional honesty and precision from a superb Road Theatre Company cast." ... said the Los Angeles Times. This play became our first bona fide hit at the LANKERSHIM ARTS CENTER, being extended twice and eventually running a total of 12 weeks. HOME FIRES received 3 ADA Awards (Best Production of a Revival Play, Best Ensemble Cast, and Best Directing), 5 Drama-Logue Awards, 1 Drama Critics Circle Award, 1 Robby Award, 3 Back Stage West Garland Awards "Honorable Mentions", as well as an Ovation Nomination. Our Fall production of JOY RIDE AND OTHER SHORT PLAYS, a series of one-act plays by California playwright Kristen Lazarian, garnered 2 more Drama-Logue Awards for Performance. Our 1996 season ended with THE ROARING GIRL by Joseph Puterbaugh (a member of the Golden West Playwrights), an adaption of the classical play with the same name.
We began 1997 with the World Premiere production of SLUMBER PARTY by Brady Sewell Thomas, a ROAD THEATRE COMPANY member. Set in contemporary West Texas, it was "... a crazy, fun chaotic romp through all the major women in Will Bradley’s life."... said The Tolucan Times. Following SLUMBER PARTY, we continued our tradition of presenting World Premieres by California playwrights, by producing Mark Lee’s AN AMERICAN ROMANCE, winner of the 1994 John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Contest. AN AMERICAN ROMANCE takes place in 1841 on Brook Farm, one of the first utopian communities in America, where during one summer the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne learned the strength of his passions. The production received THE ROAD’s 3rd "Critic’s Choice" selection from the Los Angeles Times, which said: "With ‘An American Romance’ Mark Lee has created that rare thing: a national play for a national audience. Its world premiere at the Road Theatre is not only a coup for this small Los Angeles venue, which has nabbed a major work, but it is also the surest sign yet that the once young and stumbling company has matured into an outstanding home for gifted playwrights." The Daily News gave the production "Three and half Stars", saying "...the excellent Road cast does some of the best ensemble work this season." The L.A. Weekly ("Recommended") claimed that the production was "...a light and highly enjoyable experience." Back Stage West gave the production another glowing review, saying that it was "...a remarkable new play...the performances were uniformly vivid...", and gave THE ROAD another "Critic’s Pick" rating. AN AMERICAN ROMANCE opened July 11th and ran for 4 months through November due to the overwhelming audience response. The production swept the Valley Theatre League ADA Awards winning 5 Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre, including: Best Production of an Original Play, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Writing, Best Director, and Best Set Design. AN AMERICAN ROMANCE additionally won a Drama-Logue Award for Best Costume Design, received 2 "Honorable Mentions" from the Back Stage West Garland Awards, and received an Ovation Nomination for Best Writing. THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY ended 1997 with a funny and heart-warming series of one-acts, entitled YULETIDINGS, written by California playwright Elias Stimac. YULETIDINGS received a Drama-Logue Award for Best Ensemble Cast.
THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANYbegan 1998 with the West Coast Premiere of NEW YORK METS by TJ Edwards, winner of the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play. NEW YORK METS, explores themes of homosexuality, friendship, and the harsh realities of life in New York City. With NEW YORK METS, THE ROAD received national recognition by being reviewed in the Washington Post. The season continued with WHITE PEOPLE by J.T. Rogers, a poignant play about racism and tolerance in America. The Los Angeles Times gave the production "Critic’s Choice" calling it a "...riveting production...three razor-sharp performances prove savagely funny and deeply tragic...the piece never strikes a false note...rare plays like this one help lift the veil." The production also received "Critic’s Choice" from the Drama-Logue and "Recommended" in the L.A. Weekly. WHITE PEOPLE won 5 ADA Awards this last October, including
Best Production of a Revival Play, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Director, Best Stage Management, and Best Sound Design. The production was also nominated for an L.A. Weekly Award for Best Performance by a
Lead Actress and 2 Drama Critic’s Circle Awards for Best Writing and Best Lead Performance. On the off-night of WHITE PEOPLE, THE ROAD produced another play with themes of racism and tolerance, William Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. This production received 2 Back Stage West/Drama-Logue Garland Awards "Honorable Mention," both for Performance. Next up for The Road was the West Coast premiere of TAINTED BLOOD written by California playwright, Tom Jacobson. While vacationing together in Ireland, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker meet and battle a vampire. This humorous gothic horror opened October 9th in celebration of the Halloween season. With TAINTED BLOOD, THE ROAD received its 3rd "Pick of the Week" selection from the L.A. Weekly which said"Jacobson’s clever play balances repressed Victorian sexuality, historical anecdote, over-the-top hilarity and vampire melodrama into an intoxicating brew." The production also garnered THE ROAD’s 3rd "Critic’s Pick" selection from Back Stage West (now Back Stage West/Drama-Logue) which called the production "abundant gore and mayhem (but with panache)…sharp performances." TAINTED BLOOD received rave reviews, including The Tolucan Times which called it "…a spectacular, must see, totally unique, spine chiller of a play." The production was extended three times due to overwhelming response and closed the end of January 1999. TAINTED BLOOD won the 1998 L.A. Weekly Award for Best Production Design. The production also received 3 Back Stage West/Drama-Logue Garland Award "Honorable Mentions" for Set Design, Lighting Design, and Costume Design. Additionally, the production won 7 ADA Awards including Best Production of a Revival Play, Best Ensemble Cast in a Revival Play, Best Directing of a Revival Play, Best Set Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Design. On the off-night of TAINTED BLOOD, THE ROAD produced Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. This production received a "Recommended" rating from the L.A. Weekly which said … "This sparkling revival proves that time hasn’t dulled the luster of Oscar Wilde’s perfectly constructed puff-pastry comedy…top acting honors."
The year 1998 proved to be an extraordinarily productive and inspiring year for THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY. In addition to having highly successful, critically praised, and well attended productions, the company placed a bid and won the contract to be the sole organization that is responsible for the arts programming at the LANKERSHIM ARTS CENTER until the year 2003. The Cultural Affairs Department came through for us once again and under their auspices THE ROAD has provided more opportunities for local artists and community members to learn about and participate in the arts in the North Hollywood area. THE ROAD received the 1998 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle’s prestigious Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatre.
THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANYbegan its 1999 season with the World Premiere of HITLER’S HEAD by California playwright, John Rafter Lee. The play examines the life of an artist who is commissioned to do a bust of Hitler’s head before the Second World War and the ultimate choices he faces when he is also commissioned to do a bust of a Jewish businessman. The Los Angeles Times review said that this "new play daringly examines the moral dilemmas of the time…gripping production." Also, the local Tolucan Times called it "another mind-blowing offering by the Road Theatre." Additionally the production received yet another "Critic’s Pick" from Back Stage West/Drama-Logue which said "John Rafter Lee’s inspired script is a feast for thought and creativity, a true gift for The Road, and the company in turn has elevated it to pierce the prickliest of pained hearts…provocative performances weave these fascinating issues into disturbing knots." HITLER’S HEAD was extended twice and ran through June. HITLER’S HEAD received 5 ADA Awards including Best Production of an Original Play, Best Directing of an Original Play, Best Author of an Original Play, Best Lead Actor in a Play, and Best Supporting Actor. Next up for THE ROAD was the West Coast Premiere of THE ANGELS OF LEMNOS by Jim Henry, a poignant and lyrical journey of a child-like man lost on the streets of America. THE ANGELS OF LEMNOS opened on September 24th to standing ovations. The show garnered The Road its 5th "Critic’s Choice" selection from the Los Angeles Times which called it "A strikingly original play…an emotional powerhouse…the play shimmers with surprising humor and compassion…inventive staging." Frontiers Newsmagazine said it was "an unforgettable journey through the resilience of the human spirit…superlative ensemble…the company has certainly struck gold with this lovingly crafted and highly rewarding production – one of the don’t-miss shows of the new fall season." Other rave reviews include
the NoHo News which said "…by definition it is dubbed a tragedy, but the events that you experience toward a
heartfelt ending are full of celebration and discovery. If you’ve ever wondered what made theatre so special, what it can do that film and television can’t, swing by the Lankershim Arts Center and find out!" The show was extended four times and closed February 26th. THE ANGELS OF LEMNOS received a Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Lighting Design and Robby Awards for Best Sound Design and Best Writing. Additionally, the show won 2 Ovation Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Lighting Design – Intimate Theatre as well as 3 ADA Awards for Best Ensemble Cast, Best Sound Design, and Best Costume Design.
The year 2000 season will begin with the West Coast Premiere of BALLAD HUNTER by Jenny Laird. BALLAD HUNTER tells the story of three generations of women living on an isolated Appalachian mountain, seeking to make sense of their world, which they suspect is cursed when everything around them mysteriously begins to die. BALLAD HUNTER received "Three Stars" from the Daily News which said "In it’s West Coast Premiere, ‘Ballad Hunter’ gets a bang-up production at NoHo’s Road Theatre…stocked with curses, legends, music and memories, ‘Ballad Hunter’ feels like a fable, but it’s also a grounded story of three women trying to live down the actions/mistakes of the past…" The NoHo News raved "…another winner…this beautiful theatre in the NoHo Arts District has consistently brought us the best in entertainment making it a joy to attend their productions…Ballad Hunter tops them all and will be a hard act to follow." The show also received a "Best Bet" rating from Nitelife After Dark which called it a "compelling play…Director Marci Hill has assembled an excellent ensemble…there is never a false note in the playing of this piece." BALLAD HUNTER was extended and ran through July 15th. The show was recently nominated for an Ovation Award for Best Set Design. The show recently won 2 ADA Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. THE ROAD finished the year 2000 with the World Premiere of DAVID AND GOLIATH IN AMERICA by Nick Zagone. The play follows the fast-paced life of 60s Jewish radical lawyer William Kunstler and his psychedelic crusade for justice defending some of the most revolutionary icons of the time, including Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Lenny Bruce. Frontiers Newsmagazine called the production a "…dazzling juxtaposition of sardonic comedy and stark drama brims with originality and wit…[director] Sawyer fills the stage with cinematic imagery and visual poetry…the excellence of acting is matched by the physical design…this is a must-see." The NoHo News raved "The Road Theatre Company has done it again as they open their 10th Anniversary Season in their consistent style of excellence." DAVID AND GOLIATH IN AMERICA received 2 Ovation nominations for Best Writing World Premiere Play or Musical and Best Lighting Design Intimate Theatre. Additionally, the production won 3 ADA Awards for Best Production of an Original Play, Best Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The production ran from October to December.
THE ROADbegan the year 2001 with the West Coast premiere of A MISLAID HEAVEN by Carson Grace Becker. The play takes place in a small fishing village, Western Coast, Ireland, in 1921, during the chaotic months before the signing of the controversial treaty that split Ireland into two countries. Smoldering passions, miracles, secrets, Celtic legends and lore come together in an epic story of love, family, and country and the politics that threaten to tear them apart. A MISLAID HEAVEN received rave reviews all around along with THE ROAD’s 4th "Critic’s Pick" selection from Back Stage West which said "’A Mislaid Heaven’ soars … gorgeously poetic play…passionate performance…the actors are impeccably cast…intelligent and sensitive staging… production values rival that of any large theatre…" The Los Angeles Times called the show "riveting … well cast ensemble … eloquent drama … an intimate love story writ on a large historical canvas …" And the Daily News gave the show "Three and half Stars" saying "’Heaven’ is an earthly triumph… transcendent production… the performances range from excellent to out-and-out mesmerizing…a captivating journey…thoroughly insightful direction." A MISLAID HEAVEN garnered THE ROAD’s 3rd Ovation Award for Best Set Design – Intimate Theatre. The show also received 3 ADA Awards for Best Ensemble Cast, Best Author of a Southern California Premiere, and Best Set Design. Additionally, the show received 10 Back Stage West Garland Award "Honorable Mentions," 1 Drama Critic’s Circle Award, 1 Robby Award nomination, and 3 L.A. Weekly Award nominations. The show extended twice and ran from May to September.
The 2002 Season began the year with a classic play, Christopher Fry’s THE LADY’S NOT FOR BURNING, directed by longtime Road member Matt Kirkwood. The story takes place in New England in the late 1940’s
amid the backdrop of McCarthyism and draws a valid thematic parallel between that era and the play’s original
setting in 15th century Europe. The Los Angeles Times, said: "The chemistry between [actors Marsh and Godfrey] makes a convincing case for the power of charm and intelligence to ease the burdens of humanity, with the story’s theme of spiritual alchemy embodied in the production itself." NoHo LA had this to say: "The Road Theatre Company presents an inspiring performance from a group of dedicated and polished performers to top off an evening of intellectual foreplay in this witty satire of prejudice and sexual repression…" The show ran through mid-April. THE ROAD’s 2002 season continued with a West Coast Premiere of a spirited production of Eduardo de Filippo’s NAPOLI MILIONARIA (translated and adapted by Toby Haring-Smith) directed by acclaimed director, Deborah LaVine. NAPOLI MILIONARIA is a vibrant and human comedy about the rise and fall of the Jovine family in Italy during World War II. The ambitious matriarch, Amalia, shrewdly plots her family’s survival in war torn and occupied Naples by dealing on the black market from a mattress stuffed with contraband. The show opened June 21st to unanimous rave reviews. Back Stage West called it a "a richly rewarding experience, glistening with ravishing production values…The Road serves up gourmet theatre…Director LaVine elicits the most superb ensemble effort within memory," and gave the production a "Critic’s Choice" rating. Additionally, the L.A. Weekly gave THE ROAD it’s 4th "Pick of the Week" selection saying, "Director Deborah LaVine gets fine performances from a large cast, and the production benefits from Desma Murphy’s roomy, evocative set." The Los Angeles Times called it "a lavish staging…breathtaking detail…skillful performances by Sam Anderson and Suanne Spoke bring timeless resonance to deFilippo’s fascination with the best and the worst in human nature." The Daily News also lauded the show giving it "Three & half Stars" calling the show a "beautiful constructed cautionary tale of greed and redemption…remarkable attention to detail…riveting." The show received 6 Ovation Awards, making it the most award-winning play in all of Los Angeles. The awards included wins for: Best Direction of a Play, Best Actor in a Play, Best Actress in a Play, Best Set Design – Intimate Theatre, Best Costume Design – Intimate Theatre, and Best Sound Design – Intimate Theatre. The show also won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Production, 3 ADA Awards and has been nominated for some L.A. Weekly Awards. The show played through August 25th. The season continued with THE WOMAN IN BLACK adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from a book by Susan Hill, directed by Ken Sawyer. THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a timeless story of suspense and spine-tingling tension spun from taut storytelling and stagecraft. In the depths of an abandoned theatre, one man’s desire to rid himself of a horrible curse leads him to hire a young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. The show received "Critic’s Choice" in both the Los Angeles Times and Back Stage West and has been playing to sold out audiences since October 2002. The show won 2 Robby Awards, 4 Drama Critics Circle Awards and received a number of Back Stage West Garland Awards "Honorable Mentions." The show is currently running in its third extension until May 25th.
THE ROADwill open its next production of the World Premiere of THE SEVENTH MONARCH at a venue next door to THE ROAD’s space, while THE WOMAN IN BLACK continues to run at the Lankershim Arts Center. THE SEVENTH MONARCH is written by Jim Henry who also wrote THE ROAD’s impactful production of THE ANGELS OF LEMNOS. The show will be directed by Deborah LaVine, who directed THE ROAD’s recent production of NAPOLI MILIONARIA.
Dedication to presenting new works performed with consistently talented casts and outstanding production values have become synonymous with ROAD THEATRE COMPANY productions. THE ROAD’s commitment toproducing and developing new works has led to a play being published and four plays develop into film projects.
Out of the plays that we have produced, VIG was developed into a made for TV movie for Showtime which premiered in December 1998; MY LAST CONFESSION is in development for a television series; IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE was developed into a movie of the week which premiered in January 2000; and, VISAS AND VIRTUE, won the Academy Award in 1998 for Best Live Action Short.
THE ROAD THEATRE COMPANY is very proud and honored to be part of the NoHo Arts District. The company looks forward to a long history of community service in this area. THE ROAD not only offers quality theatre to the North Hollywood community, it also provides free public readings of new plays, low-cost acting classes for community members, and free performances to students and senior citizens.