Spotlight on LA

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

For a couple of weeks in June, and perhaps for the first time ever, LA will be the center of the American Theater!

No really! You should make plans, buy tickets, get a sitter. It should be really amazing.

So what's happening? Short answer: the TCG Conference, RadarL.A., the National Asian American Theater Festival, Hollywood Fringe - all from June 14 through the 26.

TCG is short for Theater Communications Group and their big annual confab is attended by a who's who of American nonprofit theater. This is the event's 50th anniversary and for the first time, Los Angeles is the host city. It's a big deal for us, and it's especially cool that instead of being hosted by one our larger theaters - Center Theatre Group or the Geffen - it's the tiny but spunky LA Stage Alliance that's putting it on. That says something good about the health of the broader LA theater community.

So everyone's who's anybody in theater is going to be in LA this summer - what are they gonna see?

The offshoot of the TCG conference is a brand new international theater festival called "RadarL.A." It's the West Coast spinoff of New York's "Under the Radar Festival" - a sort of hipster downtown event that takes over the Public Theater every January. The LA version will focus on local theater as well as work from Latin America and the Pacific Rim. In all there are 15 companies presenting work. Half from LA and the other half from Austin, Texas, Mexico, Chile, Australia and Japan. Home base for the festival is REDCAT in downtown LA.

The work from LA is mostly remounts of pieces already seen here. That's a mixed blessing for Angelenos. While it shifts some of the excitement to the imports, it does give the LA audience a chance to see work they might have missed first time around. Shows like Brewsie & Willie by Poor Dog Group and Moving Arts' The Car Plays: LA Stories which take place in or around cars.

My early picks for shows coming from out of town would be a production by The Rude Mechs, a witty, irreverent company from Austin, Texas. LA audiences might have caught them years ago at UCLA doing Lipstick Traces.Their current piece is called The Method Gun about an acting method called "The Approach." There's also a Japanese piece called Chelfitsch: Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech. How can you miss a show with a title like that?

What's exciting is the festival is scheduled like a festival. Shows start at two in the afternoon and run through the evening. With any luck, the bar at REDCAT may become, for a moment, that most elusive of LA commodities - a theater bar for audiences and performers to continue the conversation after the show.

And I haven't even gotten to the Second Annual Hollywood Fringe or the National Asian American Theater Festival or all the other shows already happening around LA. Trust me, these two weeks in June are going to be exciting. Don't miss them.

It all happens in LA from June 14 to the 26.

For info on this summer's LA theater palooza, text the word "curtain" to 69866.

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

Banner image from The Method Gun: Alan Simmons