New York Times: Emerging From Covid, Small Theaters in Los Angeles Face a New Challenge.

July 13, 2021

LOS ANGELES — “And here she is, in all her glory.”

With a clank of a switch, Gary Grossman, the artistic director of the Skylight Theater Company in Los Angeles, turned up the lights over the 99 seats of his shoe box of a theater in Los Feliz the other morning. The Skylight looked pretty much the way it did when it abruptly shut down in March of 2020. Planks of scenery from its last production, “West Adams,” were gathering dust, leaned up against the rear of the stage.

Concert halls, arenas, movie houses, baseball stadiums and big theaters are reopening here and across the country as the pandemic begins to recede. But for many of the 325 small nonprofit theater companies scattered across Los Angeles, like the Skylight, that day is still months away, and their future is as uncertain as ever.

“How long will it be until we get back to where we were?” Grossman asked, his voice echoing across the empty theater that was founded in 1983. “I think three to five years.”

This network of intimate theaters, none bigger than 99 seats, is a vibrant subculture of experimentation and tradition in Los Angeles, often overlooked in the glitter of the film and television industry. But it is confronting two challenges as it tries to climb back after the lengthy shutdown: uncertainty as to when theatergoers will be ready to cram into small black boxes with poor ventilation, and a 2020 state law, initially intended to help gig workers such as Uber drivers, that stands to substantially drive up labor costs for many of these organizations.


Susan Rubio, the Democratic California senator who is sponsoring the bill to set up a state [program] and pushing for the $50 million subsidy, argued her approach would help the industry survive these challenging times.

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