In 2011, Long Beach Playhouse leaders and volunteers decided they had to cut back on the company’s 16 shows a year.
The Mainstage and the Studio theaters each hosted full eight-play seasons. But the decision to cut out four months on the Studio stage left a void.
The answer? A collaboration with other performing arts companies seemed appropriate, and the Collaborative was born.
The eighth edition of the Collaborative starts Saturday, Dec. 1, with a fund-raising performance by the improv group Held2gether. It ends March 30 at the end of the New Works Festival, with comedy, drama, hip hop, inspiration and more in-between.
"We're a community theater and this is one of the ways we fulfill our mission,” Madison Mooney, Playhouse executive director, said. “The Playhouse meets new directors and actors and the audiences who come to see the shows get to know the Playhouse. Audiences love it and so do we. We have resources individuals and small theater companies don't necessarily have."
Mooney and Sean Gray, artistic director, said they look for creativity and diversity in choosing the partners for the season. Groups this season range from P3 Theatre Company's “MGM in Concert” — a musical tribute to the wonderful musicals produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — to Karole Foreman and Joey Molina's “Rule My World,” a modern musical retelling of William Shakespeare's “Antony and Cleopatra.”
This year’s offerings have been increased from 10 to 12, meaning there’s even more room for diversity. There are even a few selections generated by the Playhouse.
For example, the Playhouse takes on a 24-Hour Theatre production in March. The entire play will go from concept to production in 24 hours. The creators involved will have little time for overthinking or second guesses. It is sure to be a whirlwind of artistry resulting in an evening of fun.
In addition to this season's eclectic theatrical fare, the lineup features two fundraisers. Gray said the Held2gether fundraiser for WomenShelter has become a tradition, with this being the fourth year of the presentation.
Then in February the Playhouse reaches a milestone with its 90th birthday. This year’s Staff and Friends Cabaret, which features folks on staff who you might not necessarily see on stage and a few familiar faces, will be a fund-raising birthday party.
In the past, the offerings at the cabaret have included everything from puppets to a bagpiper. And birthday cake is included!
Finally, closing the Collaborative season is one of the Playhouse's signature programs. The New Works Festival, a play competition that typically receives more than 100 submissions, is a 28-year-tradition. The New Works committee reads all of the material received and chooses the two best plays to be produced as staged readings. This festival offers aspiring playwrights a chance to bring their work to its first audience, and get feedback at the same time.
"I enjoy the Collaborative season," Gray said. "It's eclectic and it helps artists. What more can we ask?"
For the schedule of the full season and to buy tickets, go to lbplayhouse.org.