It’s December 2010 and Mr. Ross Canton, owner of The Little Theater LA, coincidentally just renamed from The Black Box Theater, has holiday giving on the brain. How do we give great performances? How do we give affordable deals to the parents? How do we give fun to our West Los Angeles children’s audiences? How do we get them to know we are here? How do we pay our actors? How do we make this all work on no budget?
You see, it’s hard. Mr. Canton has been a one man show for just about a year having re-opened a defunct theater with a former not so good reputation. So far he has worn too many hats as season producer, director, production rental agent, light board operator, casting director, costume designer, prop master, set builder, box office handler, community liaison, and the list goes on.
“It’s challenging. Every day I wake up to a small disaster that I have to get under control and then move on to the next task.” And yet, he seems to make it work.
And there is definitely a lot of giving from the actors. Time mostly. Especially during the holidays when everyone is juggling travel, side jobs, school, family and general Los Angeles traffic conditions enhanced by the shopping season.
Even still, for a brand new theater owner taking on a season full time, putting up shows year round in a house that has been constantly under construction, the challenges are apparent – decision after decision, organizing, finances, ticket sales, casting, good will, advertising, overhead, in other words, money, money, money.
This December the landlord of the property agreed to re-wire the entire facility which was not up to code. Normally this would be cause for celebration. However, The Little Theater was also rehearsing two separate shows that were opening in less than two weeks from the start of construction, making the scheduling even more hectic. With a costume designer out sick, casting difficulties, erratic cast schedules, and lights not properly working, it all seemed like one complete disaster.
The Velveteen Rabbit was a hit last year and as part of the holiday tradition, Mr. Canton decided to re-mount the warm and fuzzy bunny tale, for children’s audiences who gushed over it last year. But the real stroke of accidental genius was to offer an adaptation of Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree. What happened from there was magic.
An advertising inquiry to Los Angeles Family Magazine marketing director Traci Bradbury, produced an offer to help co-sponsor the magazine’s 15th anniversary issue. Its December theme was “giving back” to the community. The publisher loved the idea of Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree, also running to sold out houses so far this season, as a perfect match. Angel tickets were specifically created for the magazine’s sweepstakes offered in the December issue online and in print.
So far Mr. Canton’s duties have not been alleviated and he is hoping that will change soon. “I would like to finally get back to doing what I set out to do when I took over the theater – spend my time, writing and producing quality children’s shows; running the theater and not having to do everything all the time.”
Ticket sales for The Giving Tree and its opening act, The Missing Piece, a mostly unknown short play, also by Silverstein, are nearly sold out completely. The Velveteen Rabbit, with a longer run and larger cast is still selling and hoping to entertain kids and parents alike well into the new year. And in January The Little Theater has more to offer adults. Shel’s (Silverstein) Shorts will be opening on January 14th, 2011.
Adding to this little gem of a West LA venue, the theater is a beautifully intact house with 49 seats and aisles on each side to make it easy for patrons to walk up and down graduated levels to raked seating and a well lit street front window. It has onsite parking in the back and is handicapped friendly. One draw-back – an old working marquis with the former theater name which needs to be replaced. 2011 will be partially spent raising funds to upgrade the street front signage of promising little venue.
The Little Theater LA is a 49 seat theater located in West Los Angeles at 12420 Santa Monica Blvd @ Centinela, Los Angeles, CA 90025. It is home to the Los Angeles Children’s Theater as well as the Performing Arts Collective. The venue produces children’s and adult shows year round and is also rentable for visiting companies and other local performances. Suitable for theater, castings and rehearsals, standup comedy, play readings, poetry slams, music, classes, art showings, and more.
For more information about the theater please visit: www.TheLittleTheaterLA.com
or call: (310) 622-4482.