A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

The Actors’ Gang’s WTF?! Festival is the best response to our depressing economy that I have heard yet.

“The name of this festival came to me after a recent board meeting where I was told that due to the economic downswing and recent reduction in donations that we can no longer afford to produce theater,” Tim Robbins, artistic director of The Actors’ Gang, says on the website. “I was told it would be less expensive to do nothing.”

So what did The Gang do? Known for their artistic risk-taking and programming of socially minded and politically charged theater, they certainly did not throw up their hands and say, I guess there’s nothing we can do. Instead, they put together an ambitious series of music, film, literary, theater and dance events — with some big names in the mix — that will run Tuesdays through Saturdays, Oct. 13 through Dec. 19.

Academy Award winner Tim Robbins is artistic director of The Actors' Gang.

Academy Award winner Tim Robbins is artistic director of The Actors' Gang.

“We’re not very good at doing nothing,” Robbins says. “We have 70 members and we are fired up to go into production on a major piece in January, so in the spirit of rebellion and our history of survival we are going to produce three plays, host great artists and authors, screen free documentaries, have open forums for Veterans, have live music nights with great songwriters, present poetry and dance, screen ridiculously funny movies, host talkbacks with directors and try to raise enough money to survive this crap economy. We are offering a wide variety of events that will fire up new audiences, help them to discover The Gang, and support our community outreach.”

All proceeds from the festival will benefit The Gang’s outreach programs, such as theater residencies in public schools, a free Summer-in-the Park family theater series, free holiday shows for families, a theater in prisons program, and pay-what-you-can nights for Actors’ Gang productions.

Here are some events scheduled in the WTF?! Festival, curated by Robbins and featuring members and friends of The Actors’ Gang:

  • Musical offerings will include acoustic sets by Jackson Browne, Tenacious D, Serj Tankian of System of a Down, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine with Shooter Jennings, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, HuDost, and X’s John Doe with Jill Sobule.
  • The Film Talkback Series will feature screenings of “George Carlin: Jammin’ in NY” (1992), followed by a reading of his soon-to-be released memoir by his daughter, Kelly Carlin McCall; “Jesus Is Magic,” followed by a talkback with Sarah Silverman; “The Aristocrats,” followed by a talkback with director Paul Provenza and members of the cast; “Sir! No Sir!” (2005), the award-winning documentary that tells the long-suppressed story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam, followed by talkback with director David Zeiger; “William Kuntsler: Disturbing the Universe” (Sundance Film Festival, 2009), followed by a talkback with director Emily Kuntsler; and Iraq war documentary “The Ground Truth” (2006), followed by a talkback with director Patricia Foulkrod.
  • The Gang and PEN Center USA will host conversations with celebrated authors like Gore Vidal. PEN American Center will present the reading of prize-winning work from their Prison Writing Program by members of the cast of “The Shawshank Redemption.” The Gang will also host a Teen Poetry Slam, performed by Los Angeles’ award-winning Get Lit! Players.
  • The Theater and Dance series opens with “The Need to Know: A Veteran’s Journey from Fear to Freedom,” written and performed by April Fitzsimmons, and “Death and Giggles” from Cirque du Soleil performer Daisuke Tsuji. Also on tap are “All Cake, No File,” Donna Jo Thorndale’s Johnny Cash tribute with live cooking and live music; and a performance of Mental Head Circus, a vaudeville circus from Terry Beeman Dance Company and Hoopdawgz.

The Actors’ Gang is located in the Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City.¬† Two hours free parking available throughout downtown Culver City; the Ince Parking Lot (corner of Culver and Ince) is across the street from the theater. For details, ticket prices and a complete schedule, call The Actors’ Gang Box Office at 310-838-GANG (310-838-4264) or visit www.wtffestival.com.