“there’s a fine wealth of talent here in LA,” talking Temblors with T. Tara Turk

T. Tara Turk

I was really excited when I heard about the recent launch of The Temblors, a new group of LA based playwrights, aiming to, as the name suggests, shake things up a bit. I’ve known T. Tara for ages, ever since Sarah Lawrence College when we studied playwrighting and made theatre. Since then, her work has appeared in Sticky, and I’ve watched her career, and surprise wedding (wow that looked amazing!), from afar. I had to know more about her latest endeavor, so I asked her about it.

The Temblors offers a supportive network of collaborative artists, and a time frame, for fellow Temblors to produce their work. Why do playwrights, individualists by nature, need or want this kind of framework?

T. Tara
In LA, the theater world is different from NY in that we had the whole 99 seat theater blow up making it a very hard time for both actors and producers to put up plays on the smaller side. Expense wise, mid-size theater here is hard to do so that’s why it hadn’t been done as much before. In addition, a lot of times mid size theater was done, it was going to NY playwrights (not playwrights living here full time) when there’s a fine wealth of talent here in LA. In the footsteps of the Welders or 13P, we wanted to give LA playwrights a platform to get into midsize theater. Instead of the usual sending in of plays or hoping plays get selected, we decided to create that opportunity ourselves. We also don’t want it to just be us seven because we certainly aren’t the only talented playwrights in LA. We want this to go on to the next seven and hopefully contribute a wealth of local talent to the LA Theater scene on a broader scale and create more conversation.

It’s funny what you say about the productions going to NY artists. We often say out here that to get a show up you have to go to LA, get staffed on a show, then come back east. I’ve been making theater for quite a bit now, and the thing that I found that has been a revelation to me is just how deep the talent pool is. There are so many spectacularly talented writers and artists making work in this field, and those that get famous enough to be well recognized or well compensated are just a few of the insanely spectacular group. What is really important is not just making the work ourselves, but becoming a platform for more work. I love that the Temblors has that foresight, to keep up the project even past your own productions having been achieved. How did the seven of you find each other, and how will you find the next seven?

T. Tara
Well, Kemp and I were in the Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship together. He and John Pollono are members of Rogue Machine Theater company here which does 99 seat theater shows mostly. Vasanti and I were Van Liers at New York Theater Workshop. Oliver has been around the scene for awhile on both coasts and LATC is one of his stomping grounds. Nate and Kemp met I believe by both being nominated locally for their shows last year or so. Meghan is one of the local playwrights who’s work we admired and I think she was nominated at LA Ovation as well. It was important we found people who’s work we admired and could stand behind. Lots of working playwrights here don’t live here so its hard to say they are LA playwrights. I think smaller theaters here are looking at NY writers who aren’t just getting staffed on shows over LA playwrights who live here. For the next seven, we are each responsible for finding one. We hope to have a few writers involved in The Temblors by coming to see us, supporting us, etc. so they won’t be strangers.

During grad school there was alot of talk about how the ‘pipeline’ from downtown (NYC, but let’s throw in LA, why not) to Broadway (let’s call it major market stages, since they are far and wide these days), was broken. Do your Temblors feel this? Is that part of what’s driving this?

T. Tara
I’m not sure if it’s broken so much as across the board, entertainment businesses are trying to make sure they make money. Are those efforts always successful? Probably not. I think we aim to strengthen the relationship of that pipeline here to include local playwrights and have them considered for the larger scale productions in LA rather than assume that NY or other notable factors will guarantee an audience.

Do you think that money, or a profit motive, should be a deciding force in what work is selected for production? It’s interesting because while films depend on ticket sales, television depends on advertising revenue, and theatre depends on grant money. Do you think that money, or a profit motive, should be a deciding force in what work is selected for production? How is The Temblors funded?

T. Tara
Well I hate that is it. The motivation for smaller theaters here is that they hope to get a big NY name to guarantee ticket sales. But that doesn’t always work as art isn’t a guaranteed business model. Producing in 99 seat theaters here doesn’t give you much of a profit even if you sell 99 percent of your seats here. I think Kemp’s One Night In Miami for Rogue was an amazing exception but that isn’t something guaranteed. We think taking a gamble and trying to go above the 99 seat parameters may surprising change the landscape. We hope so anyway. Lots of LA theaters don’t have the resources or the interest to go above that 99 seat clause but with the changing equity rules, we think it’s worth a shot to try.

We are doing old fashioned fundraising, grants through LATC and whatever else we can do to make sure we put up quality productions. We hope our group is unique enough and gains enough attention that the usual funding entities want to support us.

Do you know which play of yours you’ll be presenting with The Temblors?

T. Tara
I do! I’m working on it now. Tentatively titled “The Mic Catches Everything.”

Can you tell us anything about the play? Do you like to talk about your work while you’re writing it or do you keep it to yourself?

T. Tara
I am fine with talking about it. Especially since I have my summary up already! My play is about a former journalist (scarred by a past incident) who does a podcast about a crime and what her responsibility is to prove or disprove justice.

You can find out more about The Temblors and what mischief they’ll get up to next here, and more about T. Tara Turk here.

The Temblors, from left Vasanti Saxena, Oliver Mayer, Nate Rufus Edelman, T. Tara Turk, John Pollono, Kemp Powers, and Meghan Brown

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