1107 N. Kings Rd., West Hollywood
The final venue in the old theatre district was the Globe Playhouse, which opened in a steel-clad former industrial building on Kings Road in 1973. The property itself is historic. Prior to 2015, for nearly 200 years it was held by just three families. In the 1820s the lot was part of the Rancho La Brea land grant awarded by the Mexican government to the Roche family. In 1860 brothers Henry and John Hancock acquired Rancho La Brea from the Roches. In 1887 Alfred C. Watts, his brother and a friend bought a 33-acre tract from John Hancock that included the lot. Watts’ heirs held the property until 2015 when it was sold to Emser International LLC, owners of the landmark Emser Tile building nearby.
Alfred Watts installed the steel-clad structure on the lot in 1947, which, in an indirect way, makes the building one of a very few connections to the Hancocks and the Rancho La Brea era extant in West Hollywood today.
The building housed a variety of commercial and light industrial businesses over the years. In 1973 it was leased to R. Thad Taylor, a founder of the Shakespeare Society of America. The SSA, which counted scholars as well as actors Robert Ryan and Edward G. Robinson among its members, had been evicted from its headquarters, a Tudor-style mansion in West Hollywood that had been sold to make way for an apartment building. The SSA selected the steel-clad building as its new center and the home for its next project – establishing the Globe Playhouse. They renovated the space into a 99-seat theatre and installed a remarkable half-scale replica of the original Old Globe stage where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.
Between 1975 and 1979 the SSA staged all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. “While rarely terrific,” a Times reviewer wrote, “the ratio of hits to clinkers … has been as good as any group’s in town.” The group repeated the entire cycle between 1979 and 1985, following it up with a dozen “apocryphal” plays associated with Shakespeare.
But by 1988 the SSA was operating in the red, and fundraising goals were met with limited success. The group ceased production in 1990 and began leasing the theatre to independent producers.
Among the notable productions during this era were “Joan of Arc” (1991), starring Rain Pryor, daughter of Richard Pryor and star of “Head of the Class”; two separate productions of the late Nitozake Shange’s poetic “For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Isn’t Enuf”; and Nia Vardalos’ hit one-woman show, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which was made into a hit movie in 2002, with a sequel in 2016.
In 2006, after the death of R. Thad Taylor, the Shakespeare Society moved its theatrical production to Monterey. A year later the theatre was leased by Odalys Nanin, an actress, writer, director and producer – in 1997, she had appeared in the Globe’s production of “The Merchant of Venice.”
Renamed the Macha Theatre, it found its audience over the next decade. Many of the plays, including some written by Nanin herself, focused on the lives and careers of Hollywood stars, and often dealt with themes of same-sex love.
- “Proof” (2008) , David Auburn’s Pulitzer and Tony winning drama about the inner lives of the family of a brilliant mathematician. (Jake Gyllenhaal and Gwyneth Paltrow starred in the 2005 film adaptation.)
- “The Adventures of Lieutenant Nun” (2009), by Odalys Nanin.
- “Hangin’ Out” (2009), a musical in which the cast appeared in the nude.
- “Lavender Love” (2011), written by Nanin, a mystical riff on the life of Alla Nazimova, the sexually fluid Broadway and silent film superstar whose estate on the Sunset Strip became the famous Garden of Allah Hotel.
- ”Room 105: The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin” (2012), starring Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins as Joplin.
- “Marilyn – My Secret” (2013), written by Nanin and Willard Manus.
- “Game of Thrones: The Musical” (2017).
Earlier this year, a production group called An 11:11 Experience, acquired the theatre. The producers plan to expand the venue’s offerings beyond theatre to include live music, pop-up art exhibits and film screenings.
In October, the new theatre opened with “Famous,” which runs through Dec. 2. WEHOville recently interviewed the play’s producer Michelle Kaufer and writer/director Michael Leoni.
Read the interview HERE.