Laguna is known for the arts. Fine arts. We also have a lot of good music, compliments of Laguna Beach Live, and fabulous dance, via Laguna Dance Festival. But I’m a wordsmith and I find myself often in search of literary arts that are harder to find.
Yes, there are hundreds of book groups. Yes, Laguna Beach Books frequently hosts writer-talks and Barbara de Marco-Barrett hosts the “Pen on Fire” writer events there and in Corona del Mar. There are writing groups at the Susi Q and occasional writers speaking at the Woman’s Club. And the AAUW holds an annual literary luncheon in March, where four or five accomplished authors never fail to fascinate.
Books are only one aspect of the literary arts. Theater is another. I had the pleasure recently of taking a playwriting class in Mexico that concluded with a short-play festival. There are many such “fringe” festivals in arts towns across the country, where playwrights, actors and directors flex their muscles, and audiences enjoy fresh voices and innovative presentations. These are the theatrical equivalent of the Sundance Film Festival and some of us hunger for that phenomenon.
Laguna Playhouse and No Square Theater are our dramatic venues, but more often stage musicals or comedies. For dramatic theater, one must head to South Coast Repertory or La Jolla Playhouse or take the dreaded drive to Los Angeles. But change may be afoot.
Lauren Simon, the newest addition to the Laguna Playhouse staff, works as artistic associate and literary manager. The title alone bodes well. A playwright with great passion for the form, she has organized two playwriting classes, both culminating in an evening performance.
“Intro to Playwriting: Write, Direct and Share a Short Play [in only 7 weeks]” begins Jan. 15 for seven Tuesday mornings, and “Intro to Theatre: The Art and Business of Putting on a Show” starts Feb. 19 and runs six Tuesday afternoons. Both are a chance for aspiring playwrights and theater-lovers to study the craft and present to an audience. To enhance the theatrical experience, classes will be held in the Playhouse Green Room, where one might inhale the sawdust, so to speak.
Playhouse Executive Director Karen Wood said she is excited to have the talents of Simon and Artistic Director Ann Wareham to bring these new experiences to town. “The Laguna Playhouse has always valued its educational programming and, in response to community interest, we’re excited to offer these two new classes for adults.”
This writer is also excited to see such programming and hopeful that it feeds some of the appetite that I know many share for a more literary culture within the town’s arts culture. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes, some of us would like to hear the words.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered City Hall for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com.