Los Angeles might be known mainly as a movie and TV town, but there’s plenty of live theater going on as well. For Broadway-style glitz you can head to The Music Center or The Pantages, but when you want something with a bit more edge, you’ll need to visit a “black box” theater. Cozy spaces with minimal sets, these casual, low-budget theaters are just the place to see some of the city’s finest up-and-coming actors giving it their all, making them perfect for your next outing with friends. Here are three of our favorite black box theaters in LA, where big shows come on small stages.
The space is tiny — it seats 75 on a good night — but the actors never fail to make it seem huge. Currently in the midst of its 18th season, Sacred Fools always gives you something surprising. Words, words, words be damned: Hamlet Shut Up was a version of Shakespeare’s tragedy where movement and nonverbal grunts moved the story along. And if contemporary literature is more your bag, Bukowsikal! presented a darkly comic musical about the irascible LA literary icon Charles Bukowski.
The Blank Theatre
In need of a fix on a Monday? Try the Blank’s Living Room Series at the second stage here. Presented every Monday from Labor Day to Memorial Day, you can peek at new materials from emerging playwrights, performed by seasoned actors. It’s an exciting platform that sometimes launches these new talents to bigger stages and international acclaim. As for its main stage, Artistic Producer Noah Wyle always delivers quality. The Blank‘s production of The Book of Liz by David and Amy Sedaris packed in crowds for a full year (note: this is unheard of in L.A.) and won The Los Angeles Times‘ Best of the Year. Not bad for a 99-seater.
You’d be hard pressed to find a theater company with more unabashed enthusiasm. Led by founder Ronnie Marmo and his New York sensibility, Theatre 68 shows comedies, musicals, one-man shows (Marmo’s own performance as Lenny Bruce was impressively heartfelt), all the way to poignant dramas like the successful Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the true story of two damaged men whose struggles with alcohol inspire each other to found Alcoholics Anonymous. It may be a small black box theater, but it deals in outsize ideas.