Theatre Vanguard

Exhibitor, Venue

History

Theatre Vanguard was one of Los Angeles' premiere exhibitors of experimental cinema during the 1970s. Dancer and philanthropist Judith Stark purchased the theater from the Stage Society Theatre in 1972 and after a refurbishment reopened it as Theatre Vanguard in 1973. Stark intended the nonprofit, privately funded venue to function as a center for Avant-Garde and noncommercial cinema, dance, music and performance art. The organization's original board of directors included Stark, her husband Milton Stark, Leonard Stein, Saul Braverman and Robert Houston. The Theater's original statement of purpose read: 'To become a center for the avant-garde and noncommercial arts in Los Angeles. To encourage the creation and development of that art by sponsoring and presenting exciting experimental and unusual works of both new and established artists in music, dance, drama, film, poetry, multi-media and all media. To provide the 'involved' audience we firmly believe exists in Los Angeles the opportunity to experience the new directions in art, and thereby, to participate in its evolution. To this end Theatre Vanguard is dedicated' Film exhibition began in February of 1973 with an evening of experimental works by Australian filmmakers Arthur and Corinne Cantrill. This inaugural program initiated the 'Vanguard Underground Series,' a program of experimental film screened every Tuesday at 8pm. This series was curated by William Moritz and often featured screenings with filmmakers in attendance. Box office proceeds went to the artists. During this time the theater. was praised by the Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle 'for its supportive contribution to the performing arts in Southern California.' The theater also enjoyed the benefit of funding from NEA grants. Conflict between Stark and Moritz came to a head in February of 1975 after Moritz scheduled a live performance by John Jack Baylin aka 'Count Fanzini.' Stark's objections to the performance eventually resulted in Mortiz's departure from the theatre. The termination of Moritz's employment lead to a temporary suspension of the Tuesday Underground cinema series. Later that year Douglas Edwards, former programmer of a film series at the Egg and Eye Gallery was selected as the new film programmer and theater administrator. During 1975 the experimental film series title changed to 'Vanguard Contemporary Film Series.' Eventually financial stress partially attributed to Proposition 13 and the loss of government grants caused the theater to close in 1978. Gene Youngblood described the programming at the Theatre Vanguard as unprecedented and described its lack of funding and eventual closure as outrageous.

Screening Venues

9014 Melrose Avenue , Los Angeles, California 90069

People

Exhibitions and Screening