Like the proverbial phoenix, Theatre 68 has risen from its pandemic ashes to reclaim their Lankershim theatre space, now re-christened Theatre 68 Arts Complex. Inaugurating this newly re-modelled theatre, will be the reprise of Ronnie Marmo‘s very successful I’m Not A Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce opening September 17, 2022. I got the chance to throw out a few queries to Ronnie, the always multitasking producer/actor/director/producer.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ronnie!
Of course, thank you for having me.
Last time I saw you, you were staring in your incredible I’m Not A Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce in 2017 at the formerly named Theatre 68, now re-christened Theatre 68 Arts Complex. How long after the beginning of the pandemic March 2020 did you decide to close Theatre 68?
Well… it was about a year and unfortunately it was a decision that ultimately the pandemic made for me. We fought to the end and held on as long as we could until one day, we understood that we just couldn’t continue. Without a light at the end of the tunnel for theatre coming back, I had to come to terms with the fact that we had to say goodbye to the physical location. What brought me some solace is that thanks to Zoom, our theatre company was still alive and well and our artists still had a place to call “home” albeit virtually. When we DID decide to come back in person. LOFT Ensemble opened their doors to us and we were grateful to call it home for a year.
Do you know how many NoHo theatres had to close?
The quick answer is too many. In actual numbers, I’m not exactly sure but I believe it’s 11 or so.
Did you have a lot of sets and props to store?
We had a few yard sales to sell what we could and stored the things we thought perhaps would be valuable if we were ever to open a Theatre again. I’m glad we did. My partner, Racquel Lehrman, and I went through everything together and we ended up being able to use majority of the items we had in storage in the new space now.
How did you stay creatively sane during early COVID times?
Creatively, I actually stayed productive during the pandemic. I did a lot of writing and I actually was lucky enough to shoot three different pilots and two short films. SO thankfully, I stayed busy for the most part. Don’t get me wrong my life slowed down quite a bit. It helped me be more reflective in my work and in my life… which I think only further fueled my creativity. It is amazing what comes up for you when you have to sit still. Something, I don’t usually do very well!
Tell us about the fateful email you received from your former Theatre 68’s landlords welcoming you back.
The landlords had been such a support system for me and were in the trenches trying to work with me to keep things going. Ultimately though, there comes a point where we had to come to the understanding that it was time to move on. I believe the parting line was lovingly, “The jig is up, kid!” Which, of course, was bittersweet and with heartfelt intentions. We parted on loving and supportive terms and all of us wanted the best for each other even though we wished it was ending differently. In times like these, it is important to be kind to each other… I was grateful for their sticking through it with me as long as they had and it made for a warm welcome when we decided to come back.
Was it a no-brainer to partner up with Racquel Lehrman and her Theatre Planners for this new theatrical partnership?
YES! A no-brainer for sure. Racquel is a powerhouse. She previously owned The Lounge Theatres for 15 years, currently owns the Lounge on Melrose studios and manages the Zephyr Theatre in West Hollywood. She is a highly respected theatre professional, and I couldn’t be more excited about our joint venture in bringing the ARTS back to NoHo Arts District!!
You’ve refigured the space into three theatre and two rehearsal spaces. What else can Theatre 68 audiences expect to see at your fully remodeled Theatre 68 Arts Complex? (new seats? Lobby space?)
We have given the theatre a face lift, so to speak. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint and imagination can do to bring a space to life. We have repurposed the space into two 50-seat theatres, one 75-seat main stage, two rehearsal spaces, three beautiful dressing rooms, updated green room and an incredible indoor/outdoor lobby area!
As a NoHo theatre producer, do you find Noho still quiet? Or has theatre activity returned?
Theatre is still making its way back, but I know that people are hungry for it. This isn’t just a NoHo thing… as a producer of two companies here in L.A. and New York and being on the road for the National Tour of my show, I know that theatre is coming back – just a bit differently than pre-pandemic. People are starving for live theatre. In fact, when we were originally moving out of the theatre, people would wander in just to stand on the stage. Racquel and I both know that we have a responsibility to keep doing what we do so that people can continue to experience the arts.
Do you think there’s ever going to be a need for Theatre 68 to have a parking valet? Or is neighborhood self-parking sufficient?
We have always encouraged people to self-park around the neighborhood! The meters stop at 6pm and there are always spots on the streets adjacent to the theatre. There is tons of parking and it’s never been an issue.
Are there any restaurants nearby that sponsors Theatre 68 that you recommend for pre-show dining?
A ton! Theatre 68 Arts Complex is fortunate to be surrounded by a number of amazing restaurants in the area. All you have to do is throw a stone down Magnolia and you’ll find a little bit of everything- pizza, sushi, Mexican, American, fancy, casual… grab a bite and a drink before the show and make a night of it! Some of my favorites are Kahuna Tiki, Pitfire, Fat Dog, Republic of Pie… just to name a few!
Back at the beginning of I’m Not A Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce‘s 2017 run, did you ever envision performing Lenny Bruce for the 400th time on September 24, 2022?
We initially started the show anticipating a six-week run. This thing has caught fire in the most incredible way. It is a testament to just how relevant Lenny is today… perhaps even more than he was over 60 years ago! It truly has been a perfect storm… free speech, first amendment, cancel culture and not to mention the success of the Amazon series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. They really helped catapult Lenny’s name back into pop culture and have sold thousands of tickets for us.
What’s coming up for Theatre 68’s upcoming season?
Theatre 68 as a company is excited to reclaim our home! We meet every Monday night as a commitment to being artists one night a week, minimally. We are always working on something and are looking forward to continuing to produce incredible work.
Theatre 68 Arts Complex already has a number of people who have booked the space for their own engagements! We are OPEN for business and are looking forward to continuing to bring the ARTS back to the NoHo Arts District. Whether it’s a play, a shoot, a class, a rehearsal, self-tape, etc… we have five really beautiful opportunities for you to make some magic!
What’s in the near future for Ronnie Marmo?
Always moving! Our Lenny Bruce show is gaining momentum for the National Tour. We already have 11 cities booked and are fielding inquiries through 2024. The theatre company has been nothing short of inspiring both here in L.A. and in New York and I’m newly married to an amazing woman named Janelle (Gaeta) Marmo who is taking this crazy journey with me through it all! Life is good and I keep moving forward… as I quite often say – “Onward we go…”
Thank you again, Ronnie! Look forward to seeing some great theatre at Theatre 68 again.
We look forward to having you!
For tickets to the live performances of I’m Not A Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce through October1, 2022; click on the button below: