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How Big is L.A.'s Theatre Scene?

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"Father Comes Home From The Wars (Part 1)" at the 365 Days/365 Plays Festival in 2006

Yes, New York City has amazing theatre. And lots of it, too. But what about the West Coast? We heard this one years ago: Seattle has more theatre than Los Angeles. And it's that little rumored morsel of "fact" that reared its ugly head again, which peeved LA Times' theatre critic Charles McNulty a bit.

In a New York Times article, a former Pasadena Playhouse employee opines that Seattle "probably" has as much theatre as Los Angeles, despite being one-sixth the size.

That is very far from the truth, finds McNulty. "There are roughly 79 theaters in Los Angeles that use one form of equity contract or another, a number that doesn’t include any big sit-down productions or the 40 or so theaters that sometimes use an Equity member or a guest artist or special appearance contract," he explains. "Nor does it include the huge number of 99-seat productions each year (verging around 1,000, was the estimate)."

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In Seattle, there are 15 equity theatres with 16 others that sometimes use special appearance or guest artist contracts.

That's not to say one scene is better than the other, but one could fill up their weekly school with theatre show after theatre show and not have time for much else in life here in L.A. And, as McNulty adds--and we agree--"L.A. theater has its share of problems. I’ve written in the past that I think it’s too actor centric — that directors should be granted more of a leading role in the shaping of the culture." Hear, hear!

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