In the theatre world, there are many big moments, moments when the culture of theatre takes notice. Benchmarks, accomplishments if you will, that become the fodder of legend. It may be the sheer number of production of a given show (The Fantasticks), ovations for a particular performance (Ray Bolger’s Performance in Where’s Charley?), or the number of shows a playwright may have running at the same time, (think Simon, or Cohan). This last one is a biggy. When this happens, people take note. It’s usually a writer that everyone know, and audience and critic alike clamor for the next production.
Here in Los Angeles, we’re having one of those moments. It’s not being run on the ticker of Radio City Music Hall. It may not even be noted in local paper. But it is an important moment nonetheless. Art Shulman, a local –grown playwright, has two shows running at the same time. The Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre has just extended it’s production of The $4 Million Giveaway, and just down the street at The Secret Rose, The Rabbi and the Shiksa is enjoying packed houses in it’s fourth week.
What makes this even more interesting is that Art Shulman came to theatre late. A first career in market analysis followed by a career teaching the same subject at CSUN hardly laid the groundwork for theatre. However, from an early age, Mr. Shulman was taken with the study of characters. First in general description and then through imagined conversation, the work began. Art wrote these characters down and collected the, till one day at the suggestion of an actor friend, he began writing sketches. The sketches became scenes, the scenes turned into one acts and now, with nearly a dozen full length plays to his credits, Art has two shows running at the same time in the same city. Not a small city, but Los Los Angeles.
To engage in the process of writing a play, without either background or training, would seem absurd to many. Yet, Art Shulman has managed to excite two producers to mount his works. Before you run off with the impression that these are raw works, new and untried, know that Art has now been produced nationally. His works have been performed in Florida, Colorado, New York and Oregon to name a few. His plays have been produced in Canada, where he received national recognition. And, he has endured.
In talking to the man, one is impressed by his affability, and despite the implications of his titles, Art isn’t championing causes. He speaks with a warmth that come fro years of being comfortable in his own skin. Quiet, unassuming, witty and someone that you know from the start you’d like as a friend. When asked, do you have a message, a theme, he simply replies; “Know yourself, find yourself,” that’s enough.
So, as another testament to the strength of Independent Theatre in Los Angeles, watch this artist. Discover Art Shulman for yourself. Witness what the spirit of theatre is really about. Discovery, new experience and the infinite possibilities to those who are willing to try.