When the Los Angeles Theatre Center opened shop several months ago, much was made about its role as a lightning rod for the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. But such organizations as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Japan America Theatre were in the forefront of bringing new life to what has been an almost sepulchrally grim part of town. Pipeline Productions as well has turned out consistently adventurous work, in its earlier venue known as the Factory Place Theatre and, more recently, in its two Wallenboyd Theaters.
On Friday and Saturday, the Wallenboyd hosts two performance art pieces, one by the Parisian multimedia artist and saxophonist Hugh Levick, called "Between 1 and 2," and the other by Linda Albertano, called "Wealthy Playboy Mudwrestling." On Sunday that tireless iconoclast Paul Krassner is back with his latest installment of "The Return of the Realist." The following weekend Jan Munroe returns for a five-week run of "Notes: ON PERFORMANCE," which was one of the works that came out of Pipeline's Angel's Flight series earlier this year (the series represented the collaboration of Pipeline with MOCA). Another Angel's Flight product, and a popular one at that, Kedric Robin Wolfe's solo epic of World War II and life in Canton Ohio, called "Warren's Story," opens Jan. 14.
With a board of trustees numbering 12 and an annual budget of a mere $100,000, Pipeline doesn't quite stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the splashier arts organizations downtown. Even its security force is sui generis, consisting pretty much of a one-man gang named Casey, who runs a shoeshine stand and covers his beat on a bicycle with a companionable parrot perched on his shoulder. But, to borrow a phrase used for another time and place, this place is jumpin', and Pipeline's direction has been established by one man--50-year-old artistic director Scott Kelman.
"If I prefer to do work in what's called 'the experimental mode,' " Kelman said, "it's because I believe rebellion feeds tradition, and I think the theater is by necessity in a more revolutionary state in the '80s than it was in the '60s--we have to deal with the imposition of technology and media distraction. The theater is 20 years behind other art forms. In the '60s you had folk singers who decided to write their own songs; only now are we seeing artists who are looking for ways to tell stories in performance. I'd like to see us get to a point where there wasn't so much self-conscious labeling about what artists do; where, for example, 'experimental' is used as a noun instead of an adjective. I'd also like to rid L.A. of the stigma of being a cultural joke, which is based on the movie industry. I cringe at L.A.'s awe of New York and other places. There's an awful lot of talent in this city."
One custom that does seem peculiar to Los Angeles is practiced by the Little Oscar Theatre in Northridge, where Stephen Farber and Marc Green's "Bleeding Hearts" opens Friday. The play is described by director Terry Mills (who founded the theater three years ago) as "a comedy set in Big Fork, Minn., where two sisters who are well-known advice-to-the-lovelorn columnists return after the death of their mother, and are both vying to get on the same morning TV show."
The Little Oscar Theatre is a cabaret style operation (without liquor) that features comedies and what's known as "popular fare." At the end of each show the audience is invited to vote for the two best performances, which are awarded with miniature academy awards. A grand awards ceremony is held every October. Nobody goes home disappointed.
LATE CUES: Gordon Braithwaite has been named managing director of the Los Angeles Theatre Center. . . . The Groundlings will present a special New Year's Eve Performance Tuesday, where $25 will get you price of admission for the revue, hors d'oeuvre, Champagne, favors and a chance to be life of the party after the show. Happy Hour starts at 9 p.m.: (213) 934-4747.