A Fond Farewell to Los Angeles

12 09 2012

I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2008 to start a PhD in Theater and Performance Studies at UCLA. My dad and I packed up Lil Pesh Aveo in North Carolina and road tripped across the country, stopping at all the sites we had never seen before – Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas. The smog descended as we inched onto the 405 a week later. Los Angeles sprawled before me: thrilling and terrifying. ‘I am moving for my education,’ I kept reminding myself. ‘I may never love this city, but I only have to live 4 or 5 years in this strange place. Then, NYC.’

Los Angeles shook up that attitude fairly quickly.

I found a church and started singing in choir, reprising many of the same glorious anthems I remembered from my days at Duke Chapel. I stumbled upon brilliant, creative friends: designers and musicians and playwrights. I moved to Santa Monica, opened my windows to the ocean breezes, and took a walk to the pier every day. Los Angeles was no less strange than when I first arrived, but I began to consider that fantastical strangeness an essential part of this city that I finally started to call “home.”

The real change in my attitude came about when I started attending the theater in Los Angeles – then blogging about the theater – then accompanying and music directing and composing and dramaturging. I have always felt at home in the arts, and LA offered unprecedented cultural opportunities. From writing my personal blog to penning articles for the LA Weekly, from working on UCLA student productions to fangirling my way into the company of Fellowship! The Musical Parody of The Fellowship of the Ring, I began to feel a part of the wonderfully nebulous Los Angeles theater community. Bitter Lemons placed me in virtual dialogue with this strange new world, and the once-intimidating urban sprawl soon became my own personalized map of theatrical adventures – each site overflowing with artistic memories and chance encounters.

I began to feel a responsibility to this community, as well: to advocate for innovative new productions, to champion up-and-coming companies, and to support the live performing arts in a city where theater is too often overshadowed by film and television. I have no idea whether I succeeded, but at the very least, all my writing and collaborations were acts of hope  that someone might read or see or hear – and perhaps be provoked to discuss.

It is not without a great sense of sadness and even guilt, then, that I recently made the decision to move to New York City.

As much as I have loved being a part of the thriving LA theater community over the past four years, NYC seems to offer more opportunities for making a living in theater – at least for me, for now. I received a dissertation year fellowship from UCLA, which provides me with funding to finish my research and writing over the next academic year; the time felt right to embed myself in the New York theater community before I graduate in spring 2013. I already have a wonderful community of collaborators in NYC, with more friends making the move each year. Even while living in LA, I have had an ongoing love affair with NYC: with the public transportation, the packed audiences, the ongoing dialog about theater among people who work both in and out of the industry. Ticket prices are obscene and the sense of theatrical elitism can be frustrating, but I am thrilled to explore the artistic possibilities of my new home.

Two weeks ago, my dad and I packed my life into 19 boxes and shipped it across the country. One of those 50 pound boxes exclusively contained playbills and programs from the past four years in Los Angeles: Cyclops at Son of Semele and the Pasadena Playhouse, Venice at the Kirk Douglas, my own family musical Thank You, Mr. Falker at the Morgan-Wixson, and hundreds more. Those memories have undeniable weight. They have been formative to my life and career, and I will not soon forget the artistry and innovation, the community and dialogue, surrounding these shows. My time in Los Angeles has radically decentralized my notions of where, how, and why great theater happens – and in many ways, I feel more gratitude for and responsibility to the LA theater community than ever before.

Thank you to everyone who made my years in Los Angeles genuinely transformative. Let’s keep up the conversation.

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One response

12 09 2012
Areum

Best wishes and a big virtual hug, Sarah!

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