DOWNTOWN — For as long as she can remember, Sarah Gurfield has been in love with the theater. As a young girl growing up in Santa Monica, Gurfield would get together with friends, hang up an old sheet in her backyard and put on plays for the neighbors.
Decades later, she is doing it again, but this time on a grander scale. Gurfield, a theater director, has joined creative forces with regional theater veterans Eric and Jen Bloom, a husband and wife team, to create Santa Monica Rep, a new theater company serving the city by the sea and the Westside. The trio will debut Santa Monica Rep this Sunday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Main Library’s MLK Auditorium, presenting a series of staged readings as part of the library’s offerings of adult programming.
“When we moved to Santa Monica a year ago one of the things we were quick to discover was that Santa Monicans are heavily invested in the arts and culture but a lot of them feel like they have to leave town to get it,” Eric Bloom said. “We wanted to offer something smart, with good story telling that will make people want to stay in town.”
The three readings scheduled in the inaugural run are “Proof,” by David Auburn, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail,” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee, and “The Adding Machine,” By Elmer Rice.” For showtimes, go to www.santamonicarep.org.
The readings were chosen to provoke thought, challenging the audience to look within and examine its place in the world.
“We wanted to do plays with big ideas, that are fascinating to talk about,” said Jen Bloom, who produces performing arts programs for the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.
In “Proof,” the daughter of a famous mathematician is haunted by his memory and is haunted by the need to prove herself worthy of his legacy.
“The Night,” examines political protest prompted by an unwanted war, as well as the birth of the transcendentalist movement. While written in 1970 , Jen Bloom said the themes are still relevant today as America is engaged in two controversial wars.
The same goes for “The Adding Machine.” Written in the ‘20s, the play focuses on Mr. Zero, an accountant at a large, faceless factory who is replaced after 25 years on the job by a machine.
“It’s about how man gets swallowed up by machinery or technology,” Jen Bloom said. “It sounds dark and hopeless, but actually, it’s a comedy.”
Naturally, creating a theater company from scratch is challenging. There’s little money available to hire actors, rent space and do promotions. The Blooms and Gurfield are financing the project with their own money and have had help along the way. Actors have been enthusiastic and the Main Library’s Robert Graves has been instrumental.
“Honestly, I don’t know what we would have down without him” Gurfield said.
Using the library has cut down on production costs, giving the company time to develop a following over the next three months.
“We would love to be a nonprofit company with a strong educational component,” Gurfield said. “Right now we are focused on creating a place where people can go and experience quality work … that you won’t find at the Pantages. We want to see how we work together … . If we’re completely crazy and everyone would rather stay at home and watch YouTube, then we’ll learn that too. It’s better to learn it now on a smaller scale than to throw away all of our life savings and learn it that way.”
But the beauty of theater is that it doesn’t take much to put on a compelling production, Jen Bloom said.
“I remember what an old acting teacher said. ‘If you can’t do a play with a table, a chair and a good actor, then it’s not worth doing,’” Jen Bloom said.
“As we go forward we want to say the people involved are also members of this community,” Eric Bloom said. “We’re invested. We are part of this community.”