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A NOTEworthy note

March 22, 2010

NOTEworthy is Theatre of NOTE’s staged reading series. The Hollywood theatre, now in its 28th season, established it to foster relationships with playwrights as they develop new works.   

Last Friday, the Hollywood Arts Council presented Theatre of NOTE with a Charlie Award, recognizing its commitment to the Theatre Arts in the Hollywood area. One of the theatre’s producers, John Money, says their Young Writers Project, spearheaded by Jonathan Klein and in its 8th year, sends professional playwrights into Hollywood high schools to develop short works by students. Ensemble members then perform staged readings so the students can determine whether their ears hear what their minds wrought. 

These are short plays – often ten minutes – but they whet appetites of would-be playwrights. That they are short is in keeping with the company’s original mission: NOTE stood for New One Act Theatre Ensemble, but the mission has evolved since 1981 (a season was lost after the Northridge earthquake), and the company now performs mostly full length plays. So, where does that leave one acts today? 

“These days,” Money says, “one act plays are like good haiku because you have to compact a lot into a little amount of time. It’s hard to find.”  

When Money arrived in Los Angeles in the mid to late ‘80s, he says small theatre drove him crazy. “It seemed that everything was just a showcase. I’m interested in theatre as an art form  –not a means to a TV or film job.”

No one wants to be cheated when they see theatre – a risk every theatre takes, particularly theatres like this one that boasts of taking artistic risks. “We do original material in an intimate, 42-seat, black box setting,” Money emphasizes. “Yes, we’ve had some things not work well, but others have surprised us.” He’s most impressed, he says, when NOTE pulls off the impossible and stretches the bounds of their intimate space to create the playwright’s vision via NOTE’s diverse and talented ensemble and visionary designers. 

After recently wrapping Titus Andronicus, Theatre of NOTE now is rehearsing Holy Ghost. “It’s a West Coast premiere,” Money says. “It examines the role black soldiers played during Word War II, guarding Nazi prisoners in South Carolina. The title reference comes from the pressure the prisoners place on one another: whoever acts out is coerced into hanging themselves.” Literally. It also examines how white Americans viewed African American soldiers in a time when blacks were hardly accepted anywhere.  

That notion of going out on a limb is a solid metaphor for Theatre of NOTE. “It’s an absolute miracle we’re still here,” Money admits. “Keeping the theatre alive is a challenge. These days we rely mostly on social networking to advertise and market our shows. Last year, I produced a couple pieces and brought in enough revenue to advertise in the LA Weekly and a little in the LA Times. Now we’re developing a street team so we can better target our audiences.”  

For Holy Ghost, that includes targeting black churches and veterans groups.

“It’ll be part of how we bring new people in to see our season’s closing show, too,” Money says. “Skeleton Stories is based on  dia de los muertos, or Day of the Dead, so we’ll send street teams into Latino neighborhoods.” 

You can find a video link to NOTE’s history here. And NOTE hosts an Annual Performance Marathon (this year was the 15th iteration) every January.  It is a fundraiser for the theatre but also captures the energy and spirit of NOTE. Money says the theatre books acts from all over to perform in their space, generally in 10-15 minutes slots.  It starts around 3 pm on a Saturday and goes well into Sunday morning.  Performances range from monologues, one-acts, comics,  readings, bands, cooking demonstrations, and performance artists.

The play Holy Ghost opens at Theatre of NOTE April 23.

Theatre of NOTE 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028  323.856.8611

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