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10 Years Later, the Lodestone Takes a Final Bow with Grace

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Korean soap opera.jpg
The Kim family women cry over a Korean soap opera in Grace Kim & The Spiders from Mars (Lodestone Theatre Ensemble Nov 14-Dec 20, 2009) | Photo by Nic Cha Kim

The Kim family women cry over a Korean soap opera in Grace Kim & The Spiders from Mars (Lodestone Theatre Ensemble Nov 14-Dec 20, 2009) | Photo by Nic Cha Kim
by Lyle Zimskind/Special to LAist

Since its inception in 1999, the members of the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble "have always done the shows we wanted the way we wanted,” asserts company co-founder Philip W. Chung. “We were all young back then, and none of us had any experience running a theater company. Maybe if we knew better, we wouldn’t have done it that way. But we’ve maintained our identity the whole time and we never deviated from our initial mission: to stretch the definition of Asian-American theater."

When the company was starting out, Chung recalls, “the standard range of themes was pretty narrow: immigration stories, identity, internment, generational conflict….” Declining to be limited by cultural expectations, Lodestone created a venue where its members could do all kinds of theater, from Tennessee Williams revivals, Greek classics, and musicals to cutting-edge premieres by contemporary playwrights Matt Pelfrey and Judy Soo Hoo. And thanks in some part to the group's influence, Chung suggests, the theater world at large has become at least a bit “more open. It doesn’t feel weird any more to see Asian faces in a non-Asian play.”

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Theater groups often strive to develop into lasting institutions, but very few find a way to make that opportunity for themselves. When Lodestone’s consistent success positioned the company on the verge of acquiring a permanent performance space of its own, though, the artistic directors started planning to wind the organization down. “We thought, We’ve done as much as we can,” Chung explains. “Let’s go out while we’re still doing the best work we’re capable of.”

For Lodestone’s final production Chung has written a screwball comedy called Grace Kim and the Spiders From Mars, inspired by such screen classics as His Girl Friday, Annie Hall, and When Harry Met Sally. “I wanted to write something that would be accessible and funny,” says Chung. “But I also wanted the play to reflect our history. Whether you’ve been coming to our plays from the start or this is your first time, I hope you walk away with a sense of what Lodestone has meant to my colleagues and me.”

Grace Kim and the Spiders From Mars
Through Dec. 20
Grove Theater Center: 1111-B West Olive Avenue, Burbank (inside George Izay Park)
Thursdays (except Thanksgiving) through Saturdays at 8 pm ($12 and $10, $9 on
(2-for-1 Thursday tickets if you say the code word “Ziggy Stardust” at the box office); Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($1-minimum pay what you will, except on Dec. 20)