by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

“You are totally a Mermaid.”

“Really?  That’s so cool!  I had no idea.  I like that.  I’ll have to look that up.”

Sitting down at the local Starbucks over coffee and one acts during an intimate interview with local theater owner, producer, director and new kid on the block, John Coppola of Studio C Artists, we got right to the heart of how large a vision is being housed in one of the smaller spaces on Theatre Row.

“What we do here at Studio C, our philosophy, with the company is that we break you (actors) down archetypaly.  For instance, Dorothy would be a great example.  She’s perfectly broken down with her archetypes that surround her.  Toto means soul and she follows her spirit (Toto) out of Oz when the Wizard leaves her unable to take her himself,” Coppola explained.

Having reviewed My Brooklyn Hamlet with Brenda Adelman at the space in April and the festival production of, I Get Knocked Down with Evan McNamara, both collaboratively arranged and orchestrated by Coppola, Studio C’s  one man/woman “vé·ri·té” style of theater has become strongly evident.  It’s goal and trajectory, even more intriguing.

Coppola, is meaning to shine a new light on Santa Monica Blvd with the determined vision of taking theater to the silver screen.

It’s a bit of an old Hollywood idea, one that harkens back to the early days of black and white film when  movies were far less action and much more literary in story-telling style.  But it seems to be a concept that can work.

With recently acquired funding, backed by a solid business plan, Studio C Artists is looking at the big picture of how theater in Hollywood can stay alive and thrive adding to the arsenal of tactics in play on Theatre Row by all of the houses that are currently showcasing LA’s smaller productions including the brilliant evolution of the Hollywood Fringe Festival which just ended its 3rd successful season in June 2012.

John, let’s talk about the currently slated works … If Later Were Now, Face Cream, I Get Knocked Down.

Coppola:  Studio C shot 14 pages per day at a new production studio downtown.  The name of the play to film is If Later Were Now.  It is based on a true story which was about human trafficking.  The lead female character is a ballroom dancer and it involves Tango in a sort of dreamscape.

I Get Knocked Down is a one-man show, typically characteristic of a Studio C production and just finished its second run at the Fringe. Evan is one of the best actors of the company.  In his real life he was married for almost 4 years having had two children right away.  The play deals with his marriage in archetypes and also with taking responsibility for the situation.

There are also four one-man shows which all have movie potential including two full length plays, one called Face Cream, opening on July 12th which is already in production for a low-budget feature.  It’s a romantic-comedy about a married couple, Christina & Michael.  While getting ready for their daughter’s wedding Christina reveals to Michael that she spent $1200 on a single face cream.  She’s afraid of growing old and being unattractive.

Face Cream is a great little found story that I actually got from my hairdresser.  Based on a real life circumstance, it’s a comical commentary on glamour.   Christina is a beautiful woman who for all of her life was used to getting a symphony of whistles as she would walk down the street.  But now no one pays attention.  It’s depressing.  It’s unfair.  It’s sad.  You could say, it’s a bit Hollywood.

What are the kinds of productions do you want to showcase here?

Coppola:  The coolest thing at Studio C is the aspect of dealing with true stories that talk to audiences.   With I Get Knocked Down, for instance, we were getting men coming to the show who had the same story and saying things like, “I don’t feel like a victim anymore.”  We are a unique theater to the community.  Our idea is to take theater out to the public in order to bring audiences back in.  We’re a little bit like the Bronx Tale in a church basement, creating all of our works in-house.  Other productions can come into the space but they have to be the right fit.

What has been Studio C’s evolution so far?

Coppola:  This year is the Studio’s 2 year anniversary.  I wasn’t looking into buying a studio necessarily.  I had been working for film companies.  But working  budgets that could cut days to cut expenses by fully  developing a piece in a black box theater suddenly made sense.  So the idea of theater to film was born.  It was the best way to go.  It’s the priority of the plan.

What was here before?

John:  Believe it or not it was a dress shop.

Was I Get Knocked Down your debut into the 2012 Hollywood Fringe Festival?  I don’t remember seeing you last year.

John:  No.  But the first Fringe festival was kind of a bust for  us.  My dad suddenly became dangerously ill with cancer.  And I was not in attack mode.  I ended up having to fly back East to deal with that.

When people see the truth, there is oneness and inspiration.

Coppola, a former commercials actor ‘king’, ultimately considers himself a Storyteller as evidenced by the tattoo  on his right arm.  ” I didn’t necessarily see myself as a theater director, but it’s all working in that direction.  I’m here to tell stories. I just happened to be blessed with incredible support.  Right from the week we moved in, the other theaters on the boulevard sent over well wishes and even donated lighting and equipment to get us up and running.  We also have an incredible team of artists including my producing partner (casting director) Michael Sonntag, (Madonna’s) costume designer Rob Saduski and set designer Bret Mason.  They’ve really given so much work and time. ”

Coppola’s next play to film in development is Detour, a special piece. The scariest part is that this one is John’s own story and it’s deep.  It’s about the day he told his girlfriend, who he had known since he was 14, that he was gay.  Sexuality is as individual as a thumbprint but not a box.  It’s a little bit like Wicked where the wizard is afraid of the people being unified.  Roles and identities are played out here.  The archetypes are the magician, the con man , storyteller, thief.

Face Cream opens today.
West Coast Premiere

Directed by John Coppola
Written by Maggie Bofill
Starring Rhonda Lord & Patrick Muñoz
Producer – Michael Sonntag
Running time – 1 hour
Sponsored by Rodan + Fields