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3-D Theatricals group breathing new life into South Bay arts scene

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by Laila Samimi

“Avenue Q” plays this weekend in Redondo. Photo by Isaac James Creative

“Avenue Q” plays this weekend in Redondo. Photo by Isaac James Creative

There’s no business like show business—and thanks to a new deal bringing 3-D Theatricals group to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, the South Bay show business will once again be alive and thriving.

Siblings TJ, Daniel, and Gretchen Dawson (hence, the “three-D’s”) all grew up in the performing arts industry, and in 2009 decided to start up their own theater company. What started off as a family owned and operated company has transitioned into a nonprofit organization, and 3-D has been on a speedy uphill climb ever since.

After phenomenal success in the Orange County region, the company recently announced that it is expanding to include one-weekend engagements of the final three productions of its Fullerton season at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. TJ Dawson, Executive Producer and Artistic Director of 3-D Theatricals, is excited about the new opportunity.

“We know the South Bay to be a very arts-friendly community,” Dawson said. “We hope to fill the void of Broadway-style entertainment in the area, and to continue producing beautiful professional theater for the community. We want to keep the arts alive in Redondo Beach and surrounding beach cities.”

The news of this prestigious theater company taking the stage in Redondo Beach has had the city buzzing. “We are delighted to have professional musicals returning to our facility,” said John La Rock, Cultural and Performing Arts Manager for the City of Redondo Beach, in a recent statement. “I’ve seen their productions in Fullerton. They are wonderful. We are hoping this leads to a relationship with them for years to come.”

In such severe economic times, performing arts and theater entertainment have become an unfortunate casualty. 3-D Theatricals is confident that it can swoop in to the rescue. “We’ve got to keep things going,” says Dawson. “We don’t want to see theaters closing. We want to see the arts alive and thriving as a crucial part of our communities.”

This young professional musical theater company has stood firmly by its philosophy of keeping the arts alive, and has managed to flourish amidst a climate that has not been so fruitful for others in the industry. One way 3-D has accomplished this is by growing its audience and reaching out to various demographics and groups of people.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between the younger single-ticket buyers and the generally older subscriber crowd,” Dawson explains. “We’re trying to build a new audience in addition to the subscribers we already have, and we’ve actually really seen it working out.”

3-D’s premiere production Avenue Q (August 3-5), opening Friday, will excite audiences seeking a racy, more controversial show. The plot entails a recent Princeton graduate who moves into a shabby New York apartment looking for his purpose in life. “That’s where it all starts,” Dawson says, “and it just gets crazy from there.”

Dawson laughingly describes it as “a Sesame Street for adults—mature audiences only! It has strong language, partial-puppet nudity, and people saying and doing crazy things. So, this one is definitely not for the faint of heart.”

“What’s really disarming about it is that it’s done with puppets. It’s really very funny. And through all of its craziness, what I love about this show is that it has incredible heart, a wonderful moral, and a great story. So it’s not all gratuitous, and not all for fun. It’s all there specifically for a reason—to make us look at our own culture and laugh, and to not take ourselves too seriously. It’s a brilliant show.”

As for offending more conservative audiences with the edgy performance, Dawson is not concerned. Avenue Q has been the largest single-ticket turnout that 3-D has had of late. Dawson strongly believes in the importance of keeping audiences intrigued and exposing them to new things. However, if Avenue Q is not your type of show, he suggests coming to see more family-oriented shows in the lineup such as I Love a Piano (Sept. 28-30) and Hairspray (Nov. 2-4).

Next year, five 3-D Theatrical productions are planned for the RBPAC. In 2014, Theatricals may also move permanently to the center to become the South Bay’s new resident musical theater company.

“There’s a fine line,” Dawson says. “There are companies that play it too safe, which is a good way to go out of business, and there are companies that push the envelope too much, which is a good way to go out of business. We try to walk the line where we give you everything from The Sound of Music to Avenue Q, and everything in between. There’s something there for everyone.”

Another way this young company is distinguishing itself is through its philanthropic outreach programs, intended to unify people through theater. The nonprofit has an educational outreach program reaching out to in-need schools, underprivileged families, the blind, elderly citizens, and other groups of people who, under normal circumstances, would not have the opportunity to go out and see a quality night of theater.

By offering a “preview night” show for these disadvantaged populations, the company is making sure that every demographic can appreciate the arts by having access to a Broadway-quality performance.

Dawson has a clear view of his end goal. “Different people, from different walks of life, different beliefs, and different incomes coming together for a night of theater. It resembles a big melting pot. It’s such a positive thing. Theater allows people to bond together. And at the end of the day, we’re not just doing a job. We’re doing what we love.”

Avenue Q runs from August 3 to 5 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, at 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd. Tickets range from $35 to $65. For more information, call the 3-D box office at 714-589-2770 Ext. 1 or click here