by JULIO MARTINEZ
Following an eight-season tenure there, Rogue Machine—one of LA’s most successful 99-seat houses—is moving out of Theatre/Theater on West Pico Boulevard by the end of January. The company, founded by John Perrin Flynn, made the decision to leave the location and start anew, beginning with an interim residency at the Met Theater (the former home of DOMA Theatre), at 1089 N. Oxford Ave in Hollywood. As a public introduction to its new space, Rogue Machine is holding a reading of a work in development, Christian Levatino’s King Dick, at the Met this Friday, January 8. The company’s eventual goal is to take up permanent residency at the former home of Angstrom Lighting, at 837 N. Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood. The process, Flynn admits, has not been smooth.
“It really began last year,” said Flynn, who had been attempting to work things out with his former landlord right up to this week. “The landlord felt that the price was under market. Last year he raised the rent by $2,750, bringing it to $9,250 a month. We were in shock, but we wanted to stay alive. So, we got through the year by having many more rentals in the theater’s larger space. Rogue Machine ended up producing only one play in the large space [Luka’s Room]. Our other productions were in the smaller space [A Permanent Image and Need To Know]. But by the end of the year, even with the rentals, we realized the amount we were paying for rent was just too much for us to be able to make work.”
While in the throes of his rental dilemma on Pico Boulevard, Flynn was presented with a potentially enticing alternative. Last year, he was approached by Richard Polak, who had been involved with Open Fist for many years as a board member. Polak had purchased the former Angstrom Lighting with the intent of turning the facility into a mixed-use outlet/event space. He asked Flynn if Rogue Machine would be interested in being tenants.
“He offered us a good deal for a five-year lease,” Flynn revealed, “and we said yes. Polak is moving forward. He is in the early stages of the construction phase now, so that may be the end of our rainbow. But that may take up to a year to happen.”
Flynn hoped to have a renter come into the Pico Boulevard space to take Rogue Machine into the new year but that fell through, and the company was faced with the real possibility of becoming nomadic or going dormant for the period of time it would take the space on Cahuenga Boulevard to become habitable.
“Then Paul Koslo, who has run the Met for 30 years or so, sent me an e-mail, letting me know that DOMA had pulled out of their contract and he now had the upstairs space available,” Flynn said. “He wanted to know if we were interested in a one-year contract. The price is affordable, about half of what we would have had to pay at our current location, since the Pico landlord had intended to raise the rent again this year. Koslo is only renting us the large space upstairs at the Met. We’ll have to size down a little in terms of our normal production over the year. It seemed like the right thing to do. I would rather be producing than not producing.”
And produce he will. Rogue Machine’s current show, Need To Know, will close on January 24. In the meantime, the company is emptying out the rest of the Pico building. On February 13, Rogue Machine will make its upstairs-at-the-Met debut with the West Coast premiere of Samuel Hunter’s Pocatello, directed by Flynn and featuring such Rogue Machine perennials as Matthew Elkins, Rob Nagle, Anne Gee Byrd and Tracie Lockwood. This will be followed by Greg Kalleres’ Honky, (date TBA), a farce about race, staged by Gregg Daniel. The new space will even have better parking: the Met has an arrangement with the ALA Medical Center, offering safe off-street parking for theater patrons.
“We are also hoping to continue such Rogue Machine performance series as Rant and Rave and the Around the Clock plays. Our first Rant will be in February [TBA]. As to our Late Night series, as soon Stephanie [Kerley Schwartz] gives us our set, we’ll take a look at what plays we have in development that would work. All this is happening at a time when we have so many really good works that I would love to get on stage, including a new work by Kemp Powers [One Night in Miami]. One of our development plays, King Dick, is about the meeting between President Nixon and Elvis Presley. It is a wonderful play that made its debut at last year’s Hollywood Fringe. Levatino has done such a good job in re-working this play that I am excited to have a reading of it this Friday.”
While this Rogue Machine evolution is in process, Flynn is also keeping the lines of communication open with the rest of the LA theater community. “So many people have reached out to me. There is a joint desire for all our continued success. I have talked to Gary Grossman at the Skylight, who I have worked with before, and Joe Stern at the Matrix about setting up partnerships to potentially move productions. Today, I talked to Bruno Oliver from Sacred Fools about their spaces at the old Elephant complex. We are also looking to establish partners in New York. MCC is a wonderful company in the Village in New York. They have produced both of John Pollono’s plays [Small Engine Repair and Lost Girls] that premiered at the Rogue. And we are looking to establish relationships with theaters in other cities that could be outlets for plays that have premiered at the Rogue.
“I have great faith in our future,” Flynn added, “because we have such a great permanent staff, including our new Managing Director, Rick Bernstein, as well as Elina de Santos, [Co-Artistic Director], Matthew Elkins [Producing Director], David Mauer [Technical Director], Amanda Mauer [Production Manager], Marni Ayers [Development Director], Jen Pollono, [Producing Director, Off-the-Clock series], and Stephanie Kerley Schwartz [Resident Designer]. I’m happy.”