Panelists in the Culture Monster roundtable can tell you: Being in Hollywood isn't an advantage.
"I think there's a kind of a reaction that goes, 'aw, that's cute' -- as if it hadn't been an obsession of mine for 30 years in Los Angeles," Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins said of film colleagues' reaction to his work with his theater company the Actors' Gang.
While Los Angeles is home to a wealth of acting talent, Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Michael Ritchie says, "for the most part they're out here to act in television and films because that's the major industry here."
Members of the panel, held Tuesday night in Zipper Hall at the Colburn School and moderated by Times theater critic Charles McNulty, agreed that it can be tough for Los Angeles theaters to get a fair hearing in New York because of an East Coast-West Coast bias.
Los Angeles resident Marc Platt, producer of "Wicked," noted that his blockbuster Broadway hit was "completed nurtured in L.A." "People sort of pooh-poohed it in New York, " he said, "because no one had heard of it...."
"The hurdle for us," Robbins said, "is to get the interest nationwide in a local piece that starts in L.A."
But while it's tough to make a living working on the stage, they stay with it.
"Things work on the stage that don't work on film," Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Beth Henley said. "I really love film. I've worked with only people that are really really lovely and gifted -- and also they give you money. You can't make a living in theater -- it's really really tough."
"All of our theaters," said Sheldon Epps, a Broadway director and artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse, "not just us up here -- but Boston Court and Furious -- all of our theaters are full of people who working in the theater because they are passionate about the art of the theater. that's what they want to do."
Photo: Playwright Beth Henley speaks at the Culture Monster roundtable as Tim Robbins looks on. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times