Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Theater in LA – A Guide for the Uninitiated

A recent study by the London School of Economics and Apple discovered that one of the three times when people are happiest is when they are at the theater. Think about how true that is—there is nothing like being at a live performance of a play. The actors are performing right in front of you; there is nothing virtual about it, and you can be so moved by what you see. Tickets to a play also make great holiday gifts.

No doubt you already know about the plays running at major theaters in Los Angeles: the Ahmanson, the Mark Taper Forum, the Broad Stage, the Kirk Douglas, the Pantages, and the Geffen. There are other large theaters too, also doing wonderful productions, which might be less familiar to you, like the Colony in Burbank, South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, A Noise Within in Pasadena, and the Pasadena Playhouse among others.

But there are about 170 other theaters in Los Angeles and you can find some incredible hidden gems among them. You see them all over, the size of storefronts sometimes, or down alleyways, and you wonder, could a play here be good? Here’s the answer: YES, and you should go. Many of them are theaters where Equity actors are allowed to perform without being paid Equity wages, in part because the theaters are so small (99 seats or less).

So, you want to buy tickets to a play at an intimate theater—but which one? To find out what the critics say about current plays, go to:

  • Theatre in LA has a “top rated plays list” based on what critics have written, with links to the reviews (they also have pages for all the current plays, not just the top-rated ones).
  • Bitter Lemons gives links to print and internet reviews of all the plays at theaters in LA and calculates the overall “sweetness” of every play, according to the critics. (Some critics, such as Steven Stanley of Stage Scene LA, review just about every play in the city.)
  • Check the LA Times Arts and Culture section on Sundays and look for the “Critics’ Choice” plays (but note that the LA Times can only review a fraction of the plays out there).
  • Look at the LA Stage Alliance website. This organization runs the Ovation awards for local productions. The site has links to every play with notes about raves from the major publications (such as the LA Weekly) and half-price tickets available. A few plays are Ovation Recommended, as a result of votes by Ovation members.

Note also that just because a play isn’t Ovation Recommended or a Critic’s Choice in the LA Times doesn’t mean it isn’t good, or even outstanding. It might just mean that not enough Ovation members have seen it, or that the LA Times didn’t choose to review it. Do look at Bitter Lemons and Theatre in LA as well.

Audience members also have their opinions…to find out what they say, go to Goldstar and search by the name of the play. Each play gets a star rating (up to 5 stars) based on what the Goldstar audience members think of it. Read the reviews too. Goldstar has half-priced (and sometimes free) tickets to most plays. If you use Goldstar to buy your tickets, do write a review afterwards!

Don’t forget that LA also has lots of wonderful community theaters. They are often also listed on Goldstar and LA Stage Alliance.

Many shows will be closed for the Christmas and New Year’s weekends, but make a New Year’s resolution to support local theater!

So why not enjoy a superb play at an intimate theater, perhaps with a half-priced ticket (or even a free one), to see some of the best actors in the world (this is LA, after all) in a theater with fewer than 100 seats? What are you waiting for? GO! Local theater needs their audience, and you will be amazed.

Amanda Podany is a Windsor Square resident who is a professor of history at Cal Poly Pomona, an author of several books, and a fan of local theatre.




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Julie Grist
Julie Grist
Julie co-founded the Larchmont Buzz with fellow buzzer Mary Hawley in 2011 and served as Editor, Publisher and writer for the hive for many years until the sale of the Buzz in August 2015. She is still circling the hive as an occasional writer.

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  1. Thanks for the plug, Amanda. But even reviewing 279 shows last year, that’s barely a quarter of the total number of productions in our city. Still, I agree, it’s about as much as one person can see…and write 800-1200 words about each. One thing is without question, no one writes more about theater in L.A. than I do.


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