Was It All Make Believe?

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

So a couple of weeks ago, I told you that this is a critical moment for LA theater. The important Theater Communications Group Conference was coming for the first time in 50 years and so was a ton of theater from RADAR: LA, and the Hollywood Fringe festivals.

In response, the NEA's Arts Journalism Fellowship created Engine 28, a pop-up newsroom slash website that went live last Wednesday. Imagine 40 arts journalists from around the country - including me - crammed into a small space, living and breathing theatre in downtown LA. In five days, we put up more than 300 reviews, stories, blogs, videos -- you name it - not to mention about a billion tweets. Because it's a pop-up, it's already shut down, but you can check out what was created at Engine28.com.

While I'm still reeling from the experience - I can't remember the last time I got so little sleep - a couple of questions stand out.

"Is LA a theater town?"

Let's start with you. KCRW's audience are some of the most artistically savvy people in the south land- but do you go to the theater?

The LA Times asked the theater town question in a horrible panel but they focused on whether we have the theater. I'm more interested if we've figured out how to be a city.

What was amazing about the week was walking, yes walking, from REDCAT to LATC in downtown LA and running into people talking about theater, grabbing a drink after a show, having an argument about what it all meant. Stuff that rarely happens in LA, not because we don't have the theater but because we haven't figured out how to master the geography that is LA.

One of the great moments of the conference was a slide that showed New York, St. Louis, Chicago and four other cities all neatly fit within LA's city limits. LA is huge and theater is too often too small.

One of the standout shows in the RADAR: LA festival called Neva ends with a stunning monologue about how terribly pointless the theater is, we should instead be changing the world not making plays. Sitting there blown away I couldn't help but wonder, "Was this amazing week all make believe?"

We know TCG will move on and not bring the eyes of the non-profit theater back to LA next year. What about RADAR: LA? Will LA be lucky enough to see this work again, next year? Two years? Or was this a one time thing? And the NEA is already on to its next initiative so this is the last year of the Arts Journalism fellowship. Will Engine 28 or something like it have a future?

TCG's slogan for the conference was "What if" but I'm concerned about "What's next?" and "Who cares?"

If you do you can still check out Engine28.com and one of the RADAR:LA shows The Method Gun plays through Sunday at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City.

For info on the show text the word curtain to "69866" and I'd love to hear if you care about theater and why at KCRW.com/theater.

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