Our History and our Future Plans
With the core belief that the arts have the power to strengthen community and enrich the human spirit, Pacific Stages is dedicated to our mission to produce, present and perform the early, new and lesser known works of the best American playwrights, and to nurture the next generation of storytellers through new play development and commissions. We are further dedicated to our mission to invigorate and elevate the appreciation for great dramatic literature and theatre through innovative educational and community outreach programs here in the South Bay.
As the population centers of Los Angeles grow denser and transportation more time consuming and costly, so too does our need to develop and support a cultural life that more clearly represents and serves local populations. To date, no theatre company has aggressively and persistently developed a vision and plan that resembles the evolving profile of the South Bay communities.
In 2004, a conversation with local business leader and developer Richard Lundquist about Pacific Stages vision to bring a theatre to the South Bay comparable in scope to the great national non-profit theatres led to a commitment to donate the land to build a mid-size non-profit theatre in El Segundo as a public benefit component of Plaza El Segundo. This generous proposal from Lundquist, President of Continental Development Corporation, happened before even one play had been considered for production. Since that time, Pacific Stages has initiated an audience development program that has uncovered, engaged and excited this underserved local population with their artistic mission. Our program of concert readings featuring stage plays in keeping with our core artistic values began in June 2005, and ignited an appetite for more. For over four years we have sustained and grown Pacific Stages nascent audience. The time is now right to progress to the next stage and establish a temporary home from which to produce our first seasons, and earn the larger responsibility the land donation will require.
While the South Bay region of Los Angeles County enjoys many lifestyle advantages that attract a well-educated, civic-minded, high net worth population, there is yet to be established here a mid-size theatre devoted to great theatrical literature. As a county Los Angeles is home to some of the finest museums, orchestras, dance, opera and theatre companies in the nation. We enthusiastically support cultural landmarks such as The Getty and the Getty Villa, the Music Center, including the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson, The Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Opera companies, The Pasadena Playhouse, The Kirk Douglas and The Geffen Playhouse. Yet, when reviewing the landscape of mid-sized theatre, Los Angeles County lags behind all the other top ten national demographic markets on a per capita basis for mid-sized, not-for-profit theatres. With the generous land donation offered to Pacific Stages by Continental Development Corporation, the South Bay has an unprecedented and historic opportunity to come together and create a cultural axis, a focal point for both artistic and economic vitality in our community.
In 2003 Pacific Stages received 501c3 status and set upon a mission to begin to address both this artistic and geographic void in the South Bay. While there is some theatre based in the region, there are currently none in the South Bay whose artistic mission is comparable to that of major theatrical organizations both county and nationwide that focus on story and character-driven plays, the core of the Pacific Stages mission. This category of theatre is exemplified by local institutions such as The Pasadena Playhouse and The Geffen, smaller local companies such as The Theatre @ Boston Court, the Antaeus Company and The Odyssey, Southern California’s La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Repertory and Laguna Playhouse, and national models like The Public Theatre in New York and Steppenwolf in Chicago. On stages like these we discovered the voices of our dramatic icons: Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Lillian Hellman, AR Gurney, Romulus Linney; more contemporary names such as Beth Henley, Craig Wright, JT Rogers, Itamar Moses, Paula Vogel, Tony Kushner, Rebecca Gilman, Kenneth Lonergan and Jon Robin Baitz; and even newer voices such as our own company members Dan O’Brien, Laura Shamas and L Trey Wilson.
Pacific Stages will choose our seasons from two categories of American playwrights, the more established names and the next generation of the best. What all of these writers will share in common is a love and talent for great stories and great characters. While our audiences may recognize the names of the writers they are unlikely to have seen the particular plays that comprise our season. We will illuminate, provoke, open minds and hearts and reflect our nation’s diversity and dialogues. We will not be sensational for the mere sake of controversy, but instead will challenge with material that is not merely entertaining but timeless and meaningful.
Over the past five years Pacific Stages has cultivated an intimate relationship with a core South Bay audience that is dedicated and enthusiastic to see this classification of theatre in their own back yard. With minimal, all volunteer assets to deliver our message, we have developed a database of over a thousand names that have joined us at donated venues ranging from private homes, to public schools and production facilities such as Raleigh Studios Manhattan Beach, and more recently a former church in an office building on Douglas Street in El Segundo. These hungry-for culture and enthusiastic audiences have sat enthralled for an afternoon interlude while some of the top theatre talent in the country read plays – with one rehearsal – in keeping with Pacific Stages artistic mission.
Our locations as we have noted were all donated by local neighbors, schools and businesses. Each theatre was built with our South Bay friends by borrowing chairs and music stands and caravanning them to our host location to create a stage in a family’s living room, a High School multi-purpose room, an Art Gallery or a TV studio cafeteria. Local businesses such as Bristol Farms, Whole Foods Plaza El Segundo, Murad, Annie’s Gardens and Hillside Pharmacy made sure that each and every actor and director knew just how much this community appreciated their contribution, festooning the cast and crew of every performance with flowers and gifts. AEA, the theatrical union has told us that no other theatre company or community has utilized such a unique strategy to acknowledge and solidify a relationship with talent. Pacific Stages has thus been able to build our talented and substantial Artists Company. This volunteer commitment will be nurtured and leveraged not only for our early stages, but as consistent with our evolving programming.
Pacific Stages is committed to leading the investment in cultural programming that more fully reflects the breadth of the evolving South Bay community, and represents that scope with theatre that both serves this community and well represents the South Bay on the national stage. The caliber of the work will position us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the finest theatrical institutions nationwide, and produce at a level that earns us not only enthusiastic audiences, donations and grants, but ultimately a regional Tony award. In reaching for this high honor, we will also encourage the finest artists from all disciplines to create a cultural home in the South Bay. Our measure of success will be not only in our own ticket sales and donations, but in the cultural corridor we seek to encourage.