The NoHo motto really needs to be: “NoHo is only as great as its people.” We are just a one-square-mile arts community in North Hollywood but we have more than 20 theatres! Yep, this is the highest concentration outside of New York City.
But what makes our NoHo theatres special are the people who create the work on our stages. Meet one of our arts district’s strongest theatre supporters and creators, Taylor Gilbert, founder and artistic director of The Road Theatre Company.
This year, at the fifth annual Valley Theatre Awards on Monday, June 3, Taylor Gilbert will be honored with a lifetime achievement award for her role in helping to present plays not previously available to the Los Angeles.
In July 1991, Taylor Gilbert brought together a group of dedicated theatre artists to form The Road Theatre Company, a non-profit organization that now is 173 members strong. Over the past 27 years, Taylor Gilbert, as co artistic director with Sam Anderson, has nurtured and guided The Road Theatre Company into producing award-winning theatre and the nationally recognized Summer Playwrights Festival. Taylor is an acclaimed actor and truly dedicated to the development of new artists, playwrights and directors.
Did you know? The Road Theatre Company has remained committed to their mission to:
• Present plays not previously available to the Los Angeles public that introduce socially and/or politically relevant voices and thoughts to the American stage;
• Introduce youth, limited-income seniors, and other underserved audiences to the world of theatre through main stage productions, workshops, classes, presentations, and free weekly readings; and
• Further establish their resident company as a leader and champion of new works in Los Angeles and the nation.
Why did you decide to create the Road Theatre?
I was fairly new to Los Angeles from San Francisco and felt, at that time, the theatre scene lacked an ensemble quality, that I was used to and appreciated. So much of the intimate theatre was, a bit on the vanity side. I along with a dedicated number of artists, some of which are still with us today, wanted a place where our work would create opportunities for actors far beyond the stage. I wanted to foster an atmosphere where we were safe to fail and fly. It was also of great importance that we create a dialogue with our patrons and that no matter the subject we knew that a conversation would be had outside our walls.
And why the name?
The Road Theatre Company, as we are typically known, is actually our DBA. When deciding upon our locale, we looked into several geographic areas of Los Angeles and felt it was time for us and hopefully other theatres to stake there claims outside the typical Hollywood row. We kept hearing “The Valley? That’s the other side of the hill!” After careful consideration we knew The Valley was where we wanted to make our home. We chose The Other Side of the Hill Productions Inc., as the legal name for our non profit corporation. As we began our journey into producing we recognized the difficulty of that choice. What a mouthful…! and we recognized our Road was just as challenging as our location. It seemed only logical to shorten our name to The Road Theatre Company, a company who produced work that would intrigue and inspire. A place to experience work of relevant social and political views.
What have been some of your favorite/most memorable plays?
This is a very difficult question to answer. In 27 years we have produced so many wonderful shows both successes and failures in the critical sense.
But probably my favorites would be most recently “Death House,” which shone a light on a very topical and timely subject, “The Woman in Black,” one of our most succcesful long running productions, which then moved to Hollywood for an additional sold out run, and “Merlin,” a two-day, six-hour epic production, which included 26 actors, musicians and dancers, on stage at the Historic Lankershim Arts Center. A feat I’m still trying to figure out how we accomplished! It’s one of the reasons when I hear, “we can’t figure this out?!” I always say, “YES WE CAN!” The we, I speak of, is a great number of talented artists, who come together to overcome the challenges and turn the “We Can’t” into “We Did!”
What are some of your proudest moments with your theatre company members?
Probably the fact that all Roadies reach out to the community at large and beyond. They often set aside their own passions and give back to the Los Angeles and the SF Valley community in ways beyond art. They give of their hearts, helping youth at risk, seniors, collecting and donating, to clothe and feed the homeless, head up a blood bank every year and participate in giving a Christmas to children in our neighborhood who wouldn’t have one without all of the members jumping in and making it happen.
Yes I’m very proud of what we have accomplished in the theatrical community, the amazing critical acclaim, the awards won, but the Roadies compassion for others, these are the moments that mean the most to me.
What’s the hardest thing about running an L.A. theatre company?
Running an LA theatre Company! In all seriousness, every day is a challenge and every day is different! Keeps me and all of us on our toes!
The most rewarding?
Participation between the patrons and the artists remains fascinating and quite frankly wondrously rewarding to me after all these years. Those incredible talk backs where dialogue sparks controversy and challenges us to look at the other point of view. Those late night chats in the lobby over a last glass of wine. The discussions and arguments that happen on the ride home. This is what art should aspire to accomplish, conversations which hopefully lead to more understanding of each other and the world around us and the possibility of making it better! We, the ensemble of community, Can Do It!
Advice to new actors in L.A.?
Work hard at your craft!
Never let an opportunity pass you by!
Say Yes not No!
Make sure you are part of a community that lifts you up!
Know that people out there, you don’t even know, want you to succeed!
Rejection is so very difficult and sometimes seems overwhelming but remember, every No gets you closer to a Yes!
Lastly never give up your dream!
Next up at The Road Theatre Company – “At the Table”
The Los Angeles premiere of “At the Table,” written by Michael Perlman and directed by Judith Moreland. Six friends head out of the city on their annual weekend retreat. With no social media, no cell phones, no internet allowed at all, this leaves them with one thing to do… look up from their screens and talk to each other. When the liquor starts flowing and the tongues loosen, no conversation is uneventful and no topic is off-limits. In these polarizing times, what does it mean to come to the table and at what cost? Will it bring us together or reveal how far apart we really are?
5108 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
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