On Sept. 14, 1993, I pulled my car into the garage of the nine-story white building on Wilshire Boulevard that native Angelenos know as the old Carnation Building and put in my first day of work as editor of Back Stage West. Next Friday, Aug. 29, 2003, just a few weeks shy of my 10th anniversary, I'll drive out of that garage as editor in chief/associate publisher for the last time.
The reasons for my departure are many and various, but the funny thing is—though the conspiracy-minded may find it hard to believe—my leaving has nothing to do with the exit this week of longtime managing editor Scott Proudfit and senior columnist Thomas "Tombudsman" Mills. Change is in the air, I guess: Scott leaves to pursue his doctorate in English at Northwestern, and Tom is retiring his column to pursue other writing opportunities and—well, you can read his last Tombudsman to see what he says about it. And please, check out an excellent article about the actor's life by Tom's replacement, Rosa Fernandez, on p. 8. Her new "Ask Rosa" column begins next week.
For myself, I am not leaving for any lack of love for this job or for what we at Back Stage West have had the distinct privilege to cover in as much depth as we saw fit: actors and their inspiring, enlightening, maddening, touching, and disturbingly intimate art. I have been enlightened, entertained, moved, aroused, and unsettled by the work I've seen on Southland stages in the past 10 years. Of course Back Stage West isn't just a theatre paper, have you noticed? It's a trade paper for actors in L.A., so when we haven't been seeing their great work onstage we've spent a lot of our pages striving to help, advise, and empower actors in their main quest here: to find work in film and television.
I'm equally proud of both areas of coverage, both theatre and the actors' trade, because one lifts you up for doing your art, and the other—we hope —has moved you further along in your career. The real message of Back Stage West, if we've done our job right, is that these two aren't mutually exclusive: that an actor can follow his instincts as an artist and make a living at his trade, and that L.A., for all its vagaries and distractions, is the best place to do it. I hope we've made some sense of this sprawling, challenging, often intimidating city, and have made the small world of the entertainment industry and its unruly cousin, the theatre community, just a little bit smaller and more collegial.
I'm not sure exactly what direction Back Stage West will take in the future. That's out of my hands. What is in my hands is a stack of newspapers going back 10 years—it's a really heavy stack—which encompasses a big part of my life and the life of this community. I'm grateful to have shared that decade with you. I wouldn't have spent it any other way.