After eight years without a home, the VS. Theatre Company has signed the lease on its first permanent space. The group announced Aug. 22 that it will be taking over the former site of the Black Dahlia Theatre at 5453 West Pico Blvd.
The move means VS. will expand its company of about a dozen actors, directors, and designers to some 35 members. With the added personnel, the company will go from producing one show a year to a season of three or four. And it will continue to offer roles to outside actors under Equity’s Los Angeles 99-Seat Theatre Plan, which allows small theaters to cast Equity members without having to pay them the union’s required level of compensation.
The move couldn’t have come soon enough according to the company’s artistic director, Johnny Clark. “We were starting to get antsy,” he told Backstage.
VS. hasn’t mounted a performance since it staged Neil LaBute’s “The Mercy Seat” at The Ford in spring 2011. After that successful production, Clark said the company had been looking for a permanent home. “No more itinerancy, if I can help it,” Clark recalled thinking.
A close relationship with the Black Dahlia’s artistic director, Matt Shakman, gave Clark the inside track on that company’s plan to move to the El Centro Theatre. Shakman “reached out to me about taking over the Black Dahlia,” Clark said. “It was wham-bam. They took over there, we took over here.”
The new space is “tiny,” Clark said, noting it’s only 35 seats. “But it’s the kind of theater I absolutely love. The actors are right there at your feet. No room for bullshit.”
The company’s first production in its new home will be Ron Klier’s “Cops and Friends of Cops,” set for February 2013. In the meantime, the company is busy raising money and renovating their new home. It helps that Shakman passed on the Black Dahlia’s “magical bucket of nails” to VS. before his company departed, Clark said. “It never seems to bottom out. We always seem to find the screw we need.”