FEATURING: Porochista Khakpour, David Owen, Andrew Durbin, Alicia Andrzejewski, Anna Dorn, Katia Gregor, Sadie Rebecca Starnes, Paul Thompson, Ronaldo V. Wilson, Kid Congo Powers, Michael McCanne, Xue Yiwei, Hu Ying, Allie Rowbottom, Mark Irwin, Amanda Gunn, Charif Shanahan, Rae Armantrout, L. Lamar Wilson, Maggie Millner, Michael Kleber-Diggs
FEATURED ARTISTS: Rasheed Araeen, Maryam Jafri, Bob Smith, and Sathish Kumar
While we worked on this issue, the 117-year-old 240-seat Hollywood Playhouse Theater — also known, at various points in its past, as the Hollywood Center Theater, the Actors Center, the Comedy Playhouse, the Writers’ Club Theatre, and Theatre VII — which stood catty-corner from LARB’s office, went up in flames. As a drizzle of ash and asbestos fell from the sky, we had a gut feeling that the event was a sign.
The theater had played many roles over the years, bouncing between film, stage, and school. In 1967, it was known for its Christmastime musical adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin. In 1968, it was screening porn. The next year it came out of the closet, still committed to porn, but more of a private club, and organized under the tagline, “Where friendliness is contagious.” Talk about adaptation, the planned theme of this issue.
Once it became an experimental acting school in the 1980s, the building had a chance to play itself in the 1982 film adaptation of Neil Simon’s I Ought to Be in Pictures. The main character, Libby, hitchhikes from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in order to reunite with her estranged father, a film director, who, upon her announcement that she wants to be in pictures, yells back, “You like disappointment? You like rejection?”
A little disappointment comes with the territory here in L.A. For instance, once all the pieces for this issue came, there seemed to be a rebellion against adapting. Maybe we aren’t ready to talk about that subject — too real, too soon: the fires, the climate. Maybe it was like Kid Congo Powers says in “Enjoyment of Fear”: “There was no time for reflection.”
Whatever the reason, the pieces still seemed to fit, seamlessly. They found each other in this unintentional themelessness and inadaptability. We were witnessing the mystery of familiarity, and what was, we dare say, a supernatural resonance.
We had serpents and foxes and David Duchovny as an author. We had the prismatic surfaces of Nadia Lee Cohen’s fake/not-fake bestseller and her not-real/real characters. We had Xue Yiwei’s time-traveling and setting-skipping parables. We had Allie Rowbottom’s MLM-scheme romantic dystopia. We had Andrew Durbin’s temporary seaside home. We had German and Soviet soldiers marching on present-day Brooklyn. We had aliens. And we had loss: loss of roots, fathers, mother tongues, innocence, and confidence.
Is it in fact too late to adapt to this losing streak? Maybe we have to do more than adapt — we have to superadapt. Uncanny, isn’t it?
Friends, it’s been a summer. Now onto the fall.
Chloe Watlington, Porochista Khakpour, and Paul Thompson