The founder of Dean Productions Theatre Company, Rebecca Lynne has directed work seen across the U.S. and around the world. She has over eight years of experience running workshops and interactive theatrical events for children with cancer; currently, she runs workshops at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. As an associate director, she has had the honor to work alongside Tony Award-winners like Kathleen Marshall, Maurice Hines, and Charles Randolph-Wright. Rebecca is also an acting and voice coach and a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Dramatist Guild, and the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain. Rebecca took time from her schedule to interview in April 2020.
WHEN DID YOUR THEATER FIRST BEGIN? WHAT LED TO ITS CREATION? WHAT’S YOUR MISSION? WERE YOU INVOLVED FROM THE BEGINNING?
REBECCA LYNNE: I founded Dean Productions Theatre Company (DPTC) in 2015. When I was a child, my brother passed away from cancer. Theater played a vital role in helping me come to terms with the loss and find self-confidence and purpose in my life. I wanted to launch a company that provided similar opportunities to at-risk youth while also producing incredible theater. As a nonprofit, DPTC’s mission is to provide the greater Los Angeles community with accessible, quality theatre and provide various exposure and involvement opportunities for underprivileged youth, especially those performing at high schools without theater education. We began performing at local high schools without theater programs in 2018. All performances are “Pay-What-You-Can.” We also run theater workshops for children afflected by cancer.
As we are still fairly young, we haven’t yet undergone too many large changes. I’ve been the artistic director since we began. Each year, we have expanded our programs further as we’ve grown. Over time, our productions went from two-week runs to four-week runs. We are still growing.
WHEN DID YOU CLOSE THE THEATER FUE TO COVID-19? WERE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF A RUN?
RL: Luckily, COVID-19 did not directly impact a current run. In mid-March, we cancelled all rehearsals for our planned production of “Binders,” a world premiere play we are producing for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which has now been rescheduled for October 2020.
OVER THE PAST WEEKS, HOW HAS COVID-19 IMPACTED YOUR THEATER?
RL: Like all theatres in LA, we’ve had to halt all our programs, including our high school performances and our theater workshops for children.
ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING RIGHT NOW TO KEEP YOUR LIVE THEATER GOING? STREAMING? HAVING VIRTUAL MEETINGS? PLANNING FOR YOURNEXT SHOW WHEN YOU REOPEN? AUDITIONS? FUND RAISING?
RL: Right after the closure, we met with the playwright of “Binders” and came up with the idea of filming a seven-episode short series as a prequel to the play. We are currently filming it with all the actors and production staff in isolation. We will be releasing one episode at a time, leading up to the live production (hopefully in October 2020). Naturally, all our meetings right now are over the phone or virtual. It’s quite a trick to film a show when everyone is self-isolating – but we must be creative and manage even in a pandemic.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON LOIVE THEATER IN GENERAL IN LOS ANGELES? DO YOU FORESEE ANY PERMANENT CHANGES?
RL: Given all that’s happened, I do feel like the theatre community will have a stronger hold on the digital platform in the future but will ultimately use it as a means to get people gathered together. Film cannot truly replace the in-person experience provided by live theatre, and I’m hoping the isolation and lack of human interaction will remind people of the value of the live experience. Undoubtedly, it will take time for audiences to trust being in groups and tight spaces again; but, once there, we will value the experience much more. While the economic hardships theaters are currently facing will undoubtedly alter the LA theater scene, I believe that it will ultimately come back stronger and more powerfully vital than ever.
WHAT DO YOU NEED RIGHT NOW TO KEEP GOING FORWARD? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE FROM THE THEATER PUBLIC?
RL: I think the most important thing for us is to see that our patrons and community still care about and support us. They can show this by liking and sharing the digital content we are producing now – or by financially supporting us through tax-deductible donations. No theater can survive without its faithful patrons. We want to be ready when theaters can again open.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
RL: Admittedly, our five-year plan has been halted in its tracks, but we are not yet without hope. As all LA theatres, we are currently discussing and exploring ways to further revamp our programs to meet the needs of our community. We have solid plans to finish the short series and produce a full 2020-2021 season. However, we are prepared to continue to adjust those plans as needed as our community progresses with the recovery from the pandemic. When we can again gather in groups, we plan to be ready and able to offer some of the best programming of our career.