New Frogtown Theater Focuses on Collaboration and Experimentation

Zack Zucker the loser to the music of Lenny Kravitz. (Photo: Kate Gallagher)

Zack Zucker twirls around the microphone by its cord, throws an apple, crushes it with the microphone and watches the songs fly across the stage. Next, he makes a finger gun, as Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” detonates the speaker system. He continues this end at length, and threatens to destroy the apple on the audience. The audience grimaces and moans, but they spare us. At The Elysian, a typical comedy show is fun and absurd, and there’s always the threat of potential audience interaction.

“It’s experimental,” The Elysian executive director Kate Banford said of the space. “It pushes people. This is for someone who likes to attend a performance art show but also likes: “I want to laugh”. panoply of talents. To come up shows include Whitmer Thomas, Jamie Loftus doing kind of hot dog show, Natalie Palamides in her iconic egg get up, poetry and musician Jason mraz. Palamides sits on the theater board along with Banford, Alex Plapinger, Jocey Florence, Ian Blair and Kimberly Stuckwisch.

The Frogtown-based theater is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit with a five-person board of directors, which, according to Banford – who founded and co-owner of the Good Good Comedy Theater in Philadelphia – makes the theater more freedom to take risks. : “We can put money for people who take risks, and not be afraid of having to monetize the space. It’s about supporting the space, the community and paying the artists and people who work in the space. Banford says the setup also gave the comedy theater access to people whose time and expertise wouldn’t be available otherwise. “With my last theater company, we didn’t have a lawyer… A lawyer wouldn’t be willing to offer his services if we weren’t for profit. They would say, “Give me $ 10,000 right now. ”

Three people with white clown makeup stand on a stage.  One, dressed as the biblical Eve, turns away from Adam, who leans towards here with pursed lips.
Clowns praising the history of Los Angeles comedy wordlessly. (Photo: Kate Gallagher)

The Elysian reunited quickly from March 2021, which Banford says is “the craziest timeline I’ve ever had on a theater budget – it was like making a movie.” Technical Director Isaac Taylor introduced Banford to Alex Plaplinger. “He really stands up for subversive and revolutionary performance,” Banford said of Plapinger. The theater – which may have been built formerly in 1927 – was previously a children’s theater academy, and there are remains of sets, such as a huge church window in the middle of the wall.

Comedian Robin Tran holds a microphone and stands on a stage with a black background.  Tran wears glasses, a black coat and a red shirt underneath.
Comedian Robin Tran with a banger from an ensemble. (Photo: Kate Gallagher)

Banford says she wants the theater to be an alternative to the Los Angeles comedy club scene. “Some people say other really fucked up things that push people away and make them feel left out,” Banford says. “And I hate it… It’s not the whole comedy club scene, but it is part of it.” Banford also points out that comedy in his theater will always push extremes and limits, but not in a way that makes individuals feel targeted and unwanted. She also sees theater as less focused on individual acts and showcases, and hopes that it can be a space for collaboration and group process. “It’s really exciting for me to see different people coming together [their work] together.”

Banford is excited about other more experimental arts and performance spaces in Los Angeles, and encourages people to explore other spaces like Coaxial arts, The courtyard, Pieter Performance, No Plus Ultra, and Heavy manners library.

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