Connecting the Dots

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Last week the UN released the latest report on global warming and Radar LA, the second incarnation of the contemporary theater festival, descended on Los Angeles.

Somehow, in my mind at least, the two are linked.

Let's start with Radar LA. The biennial festival encompassed work from Los Angeles, Japan, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, to name just a few. It housed 18 productions at venues sprawling across Los Angeles. It spawned its own one venue fringe. All in all a huge success, right?

Like many folks in the theater community, I was just grateful the festival happened again. But after the rush of excitement there's a gnawing question that I'm stuck with, 'so what?'

Now, I mean that less in the spirit of a petulant teenager and more as a provocateur. What difference does a theater festival make? Or even more importantly, if it succeeded what's next?

Which in my brain leads me to climate change or more specifically sustainability. If we think of the theater community as an ecosystem, what keeps it healthy?

Radar L.A. is a bit like binge watching a TV series on Netflix: one weekend, 13 hours, and you're done. But unlike Netflix, what's missing is what comes next: the little message at the bottom of screen, "If you enjoyed Radar LA you might also like..."

It's that last critical step that's so sorely missing in the theater. This isn't just Radar LA We could just as easily be talking about the declining subscription bases at our large theaters or the struggle of 99-seat theaters to find an audience.

What is the community doing to develop, and more importantly sustain, its audience?

I fear the answer is too little.

It's understandable. Just getting the show up is a herculean task.

It's like climate change: we know what the problem is but who's going to take responsibility and tackle it? And what can be done?

In the case of the theater, we can all think bigger and worry about the entire ecosystem.

As a community, we need to think beyond the four walls of our respective theaters. One exciting possibility comes from Connecticut. They're trying to launch a universal theater gift certificate. The idea is buy a friend a night in the theater - any theater in the entire state. Imagine if you could buy a six-play subscription to any theater in Los Angeles.

As critics, we can provide more context, think beyond single shows. How do we act as the Pandora or Amazon or Netflix? Not to sell but to help connect the dots both for regular theatergoers and folks who have never been.

For now, if you enjoyed Radar LA you might also like Einstein on the Beach at the LA Opera and the rest of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA theater season.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

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