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Laist Interview: Bart DeLorenzo and John Fleck

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Bart DeLorenzo is the artistic director of the Evidence Room, one of Los Angeles's most unique and adventurous theatres for new works and for avant-garde writers. At the ER, Bart has directed over 20 shows, including No Orchids For Miss Blandish (1999 LA Weekly Award, Best Direction) One Flea Spare, Messalina, Pentecost, Saved, Andromache, Leonce and Lena, and their current show, She Stoops To Comedy. (LAIST reviewed it here.) He has received many awards and nominations for his work, including a 2001 Local Hero Garland Award for Direction. Bart is active in the development of new works for theatre in Los Angeles and nationwide, and his company is known for being a playwright's theatre.

John Fleck, performance artist extraordinaire, plays Alexandra Page in She Stoops To Comedy.. His own performance pieces have been performed at the ER and nationwide, including at the Getty Center, the NY Shakespeare Festival, MOCA, and Taper Too. His work received national attention in 1990, when, along with three other performers, he became part of what was known as the "NEA 4." Labeled by some political pundits as too dirty to be funded, they brought their landmark case against censorship to the Supreme Court. Other recent performances include the world premiere of A Perfect Wedding at the Douglas Theater, Applause at Reprise!, and a long run at the Tiffany in The Mystery of Irma Vep.

Bart and John talked with LAIST this week about the Evidence Room, She Stoops To Comedy. (now playing) and the challenges of making theatre in Los Angeles.

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Age and Occupation:
Bart: Timeless, I direct and produce theater.
John: I'm approx. 270 years old.. I suck the lifeblood of audiences. I'm an actor/performance artist/social Vampire.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
Bart: Twelve years, all of them in Venice.
John: 30 years now in LA (gulp) with a few here & there in NY & Miami. I currently live in Los Feliz

Why do you choose to live in Los Angeles?
Bart: I love the weather. I spent much of my life in cold places and I've seen enough rain and snow. And I've lived in so many places, but none of them feel as free as LA.
John: Because I have a beautiful home & friends & I support my non profit art addiction by acting in tv/film.

How did you first become involved with the Evidence Room?
Bart: I founded it ten years ago with a few other people.
John: I saw a production @ their old space @ the Ivy Substation (Flow my Tears) and liked what I saw.. I became a regular attendee @ their shows. Bart then asked me if I'd be in their first production @ their new current space, BERLIN CIRCLE w/ Ms. Megan Mullaly and we hit it off very grandly.

How was the name Evidence Room chosen for the company? What does it mean?
Bart: Many different theories about this. What I remember is that we wanted a name that was the name of a place, that our theater would be a location, a space where things could happen, and that it shouldn't sound definitively like a theater. And then, we started reading a lot of bullshit theater missions in a lot of programs that would go on about 'beauty' and 'truth' and such nonsense. So I think it's fun to say, " No truth, here. It's the theater, for chrissake. Just the evidence. You figure out the truth."
John: That was before my time with the company..

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The Evidence Room has frequently presented plays with subversive, political or cutting-edge artistic content. Has the ER ever suffered from censorship or backlash against promoting so many new, edgy writers? And (John especially) what has it been like to deal with censorship of your own work?
Bart: Critics tend to be harder on new plays and on plays with a political agenda, but audiences are hungry for what's contemporary. The only backlash is occasionally to the bank account.
John: I no longer receive funding.. The last grant I got was a Getty Fellowship.. The NEA elimiated all 'new genre' grants after the NEA 4 debacle that I was part of .. I've been banned from several performance venues. Cal Plaza, The Natural History Museum (my piece last year was partly responsible for the firing of 2 people there).. I'm not proud of that, but what can I say?. I often deal with religious/political/personal themes. I like to work with ideas & images that some might consider blasphemous and look for the beauty in them. As President Truman once said, 'one man's blasphemy is another man's philosphy'. I find most of the people who condemn my work are often the ones who have never seen it...