For the next five days, one of the most massive conglomerations of theater festivals in the world is waylaying in Los Angeles: Radar L.A., Hollywood Fringe, the Asian American Theater Conference and Festival as well as 2011 the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) National Conference. That’s a tall order for arts journalists and editors to try to comprehensively cover at any time, let alone in the middle of the LA Film Fest.
But this year, USC Annenberg has conscripted 40 journalists from all over the country, including Susan Brenneman of the LA Times, Rebecca Haithcoat of LA Weekly, Edward Lifson, formerly of NPR, Steven Leigh Morris, critic-at-large for the LA Weekly and Laurie Ochoa, co-founder of Slake, to cover the madness. With former Philadelphia Inquirer arts editor Jeff Weinstein at the helm, the site, called Engine28.com, will serve as a five-day “pop-up newsroom” to cover as much of the theater bonanza as possible.
“Rather than simply talk about new models for arts journalism at this year’s NEA Arts Journalism Institute, we decided to create some,” Douglas McLennan, digital editor and chief architect for Engine28.com, says in the release. “Engine28 is an exercise in ‘what if’ arts journalism. What if you could throw a large group of journalists at a subject and invent creative ways of covering it? Engine28 will be a real-time laboratory for journalism about the arts.”
The group will have their hive at the old Engine Company 28 in Downtown LA. Someone should set up a video camera out front to watch all the frantic, tardy theater critics sliding down fire poles in a rush to get to their next show.