For a break from City Hall toxicity, try an open mic in Tarzana, California. It’s less of a town square and more of a neighborhood park where musicians have set up to share their voices and play music together. A few blocks in, you’ll find a community theater group offering improv, stand-up, sketch and comedy performances to an enthusiastic and eclectic crowd.
“We get a lot of artists who don’t have the room to play shows,” says Sarah Mabry of the Ensembles Theater group, which has three locations in Southern California. “I can see the potential for having two or three live shows per weekend, and then having a space to rehearse and work with each other. So instead of having a lot of people with big rooms in their homes and not being able to put up their own show, it’s giving them an opportunity to have more freedom of expression, and just having a place where they can connect to each other.”
The Ensembles Theater group started with a group of like-minded performers in 2012. “It was so much work getting permits,” Mabry says. “There was nothing but the little room, which was really small, and even though it’s a good size, you can’t really get a lot of artists to sit down at one time. It was very challenging. It took a long time and a lot of work, and we ended up waiting too long to get permits, and there just wasn’t anyone to put up. So we finally got one, and then we moved into a larger space that’s actually for the performing arts, but the same rules still apply.”
When the group moved out of its tiny space, it was faced with the reality that it only had three members of the performing arts group at the new space. “So we