Think Los Angeles is only known for making movies? Think again. While home to the Academy Awards and iconic studio lots, LA also has an impressive live theatre scene to boot. Much like those in New York, theatres in Los Angeles are bountiful, and dozens of live performances off the beaten path await the theatre lover when you visit LA.
Having been born and raised in La La Land, I’ve been fortunate to see marvelous small productions of old and new theatrical works in intimate settings. From musicals like American Idiot to classics including Shakespeare and The Importance of Being Earnest, these productions show that bigger does not necessarily mean better. These five intimate theatres in Los Angeles prove it.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Nothing quite compares to outdoor live theatre, and Theatricum Botanicum takes it a few steps further. Nestled in iconic Topanga Canyon, Theatricum Botanicum, which literally translates to “Garden Theatre,” offers guests the opportunity to escape to the middle of the canyon and sit among the stars on those warm summer nights.
Theatricum Botanicum is the brainchild of actor Will Geer, and the Geer family keeps his vision going strong. This year will mark their 46th season, and along with their annual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (an ideal space to produce such a magical story), classics like Moby Dick and Twelfth Night will also grace the stage.
24th Street Theatre
While several would think the neighborhoods surrounding Los Angeles’ esteemed University of Southern California are urban and working class, theatre enthusiasts know that this is where you’ll find 24th Street Theatre. Since opening in 1997, 24th Street Theatre has produced dozens of new and independent works for the entire family that go beyond your usual kid matinees. Often compared to Pixar, 24th Street Theatre produces work that will both challenge you and make you ask questions while retaining the innocence and humor that reminds us what childhood is all about.
In addition to their professional productions, 24th Street Theatre believes in giving back. Low-cost or free after-school classes and workshops are at the core of what 24th Street is all about. Always concerned with helping the community, the theater includes tamales or other delicious fare from the local food trucks of Downtown LA with many productions. Fun fact: Jack Black is a longtime supporter of 24th Street, and you’ll often catch him at shows.
The Odyssey Theatre
Right off Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 in West LA, you’ll stumble upon The Odyssey Theatre. Open since 1969, The Odyssey Theatre hosts many contemporary pieces in an intimate setting that adds to their powerful productions. From their annual dance festival to their current “kitchen sink drama” HIR, which brings awareness to the LGBTQ community, The Odyssey is not afraid to push boundaries and ask tough questions.
The Odyssey Theatre is another fantastic venue that will allow you to catch some great theatre in LA if you’re on a budget. The box office frequently hosts $10 ticket nights.
Canyon Theatre Guild
Drive a bit out of LA and enter Santa Clarita Valley. The sleeper town of Newhall will surprise you with its Western film heritage and beautiful Canyon Theatre Guild. Currently in its 48th season, “CTG” casts talent of all ages, many with impressive stage and screen credits, for their full-scale productions like Steel Magnolias and this spring’s Sister Act. Arrive early to enjoy their concessions and bar as well as a patio that’s often utilized for opening night galas.
With no bad seat in the house, CTG proves that while every venue is not Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre, quality theatre can be found everywhere.
LA Theatre Works at James Bridges Theatre
Home to the largest collection of professionally produced audio theatre in the country, LA Theatre Works builds on this unique resource with an evolving range of programs that bring an immersive theatre experience to a diverse audience. “LATW” gives attendees a chance to see some of Hollywood’s most notable names stripped down and up close. LATW hosts impressive play readings of classics like Room with A View and Hedda Gabler broadcast worldwide from UCLA’s James Bridges Theatre.
The next time you’re in Los Angeles, remember that live theatre plays as much of a role to the City of Angels as the silver screen does.