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Meet John Flynn of Rogue Machine in Venice

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Flynn.

John, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After a career of producing episodic television, I wanted to get back to working in theatre, where I had started and where I have always had an abiding love for the work. Around that time I met John Pollono, a very talented theatre artist and emerging playwright, and directed his first full-length production, “Lost and Found,” as a rental at The Lounge Theatre in 2008. Shortly after, I took on a Craig Lucas play for another company, as part of their season and the artistic director there invited me to come in and pitch projects. I brought in mostly original pieces. One was a new play from John Pollono and others were works that had been done in New York. They told me that they couldn’t afford to do original plays, so I began to talk to groups of friends – people I knew from television, people from the Lucas play, and Pollono’s people. We began discussing whether we should start another theatre in LA, a town that appeared to have too many struggling small theatres already.

It was the beginning of the financial crisis. Realizing the huge risk, we just decided to go for it and to make a place for another theatre – a theatre that did new work and cutting edge new work from other cities. We made sure that everything we did would be new to LA, we wanted to find a home for the company and produce whole seasons. A group of around 60 artists opened Rogue Machine in Theatre/Theater on Pico Boulevard in the summer of 2008. At that time very few theatres would risk producing new work. Now, almost 12 years later, there are a number of excellent theatres that produce new work.

In 2010 we won the Ovation Award and The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Award for Outstanding Production. In 2011 we won the LADCC Award for “Best Season.” That year, John Pollono’s “Small Engine Repair,” a world premiere, won every “Best Production” award offered in Los Angeles and went on to be one of our biggest box office hits. There were highlights every year but in 2013 we produced the world premiere of Kemp Powers “One Night in Miami…” which also won the LADCC Award for “Outstanding Production” and became our biggest box office hit up to that time. We have, of course, had failures but we have also had many other successes from new work. New work has an audience and can pay for itself. “Small Engine Repair” was produced Off-Broadway and “One night in Miami…” was produced in London at The Donmar Warehouse.

High rents forced us out of the Theatre/Theater building on Pico Blvd, with very little notice. We were luck to spent two years at The Met Theatre before finally finding our new home at The Electric Lodge in Venice. This is our first partial season there. In 2020 we will be in residence there and be producing season 13. In 2016 we once again won the LADCC Award for “Best Season.” Rogue Machine is one of only two companies to have won that award twice in the last 16 years. In 2017 we won the Ovation Award for “Best Season.”

Today, we have a membership of over 500 artists and we produce 4 – 6 plays that are new to Los Angeles, every season. Our outreach programs include education and support for youth in our local underserved communities and providing performances at low to no cost for those who can’t afford regular ticket prices. We run a sold-out “Rant & Rave” salon (1 topic, six writers, real stories) every second Monday of the month, new play readings, and we have active engagement in the development of new works. It’s been a challenging but extraordinarily satisfying journey from 2008 to now. Taking that huge risk paid off!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Trying to establish and then maintain a small arts organization is akin to being on an old fashioned roller coaster ride that never stops and has no guardrails. There is a small but immensely talented cadre of partners that exist, and we would not be here without them. There is also a small group of dedicated donors and supporters who have literally saved us, more than once. Even with the artistic success that we have achieved, almost every day feels like a “will we survive until tomorrow” day.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Rogue Machine story. Tell us more about the business.
We do new plays and plays new to Los Angeles. They are often very funny but we choose plays that address what is happening in the world. We specialize in that. Our mission statement establishes that Rogue Machine seeks to be a theatre of ideas and imagination, a theatre which mirrors and examines contemporary culture, a theatre which nurtures contemporary playwrights, and a theatre whose work continually engages the community and creates a dialogue which resonates after the curtain closes.

This company believes that art is an important part of community. We all understand that art’s value in our present society is questioned. It can and should be, as much as possible, an unbiased reflection. Theatre is dialogue, and the purpose of that dialogue is to promote further conversation. Hopefully, our plays will provoke thought. We know they will make you laugh.

We are most proud of continuing to serve our community with high-quality productions and very grateful that we are recognized in the community for doing so.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
In my experience luck is an inescapable part of any endeavor. Perseverance is important but it is not all. We certainly have been lucky. We certainly have been unlucky. I feel like a lucky man to have found the friends and colleagues who have joined together in this endeavor. It is through their great effort that bad luck has been foiled as often as it has.

Pricing:

  • Our full price tickets are $40. There are discounts available, including student & senior discounts.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal photo by Ron P. Jaffe; French and Vanessa Claire Stewart, Elina de Santos, John Flynn;
Production photos by John Perrin Flynn: Cast of “Les Blancs” by Lorraine Hansberry;
Corey Dorris, Josh Zuckerman in “Dutch Masters” by Greg Keller;
French Stewart and cast of “Finks” by Joe Gilford;
Kavi Ladnier and Justice Quinn in “Miss Lilly Gets Boned” by Bekah Brunstetter;
Nick Marini and Sarah Scott in “Luka’s Room” by Rob Mersola;
Mark Jacobson, Kenney Selvey, James Liebman, Brewster Parsons, Zachary Grant in “Oppenheimer” by Tom Morton-Smith
Ty Jones, Jason Delane, Matt Jones, Kevin Daniels in “One Night in Miami… by Kemp Powers;
Michael Redfield, John Pollono, Jon Bernthal in “Small Engine Repair” by John Pollono;

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