In 2004, LA-based actor Bob Rusch decided to produce and act in a play called JERRY and TOM, by Rick Cleveland. He told his two producer friends, Dan Parr and Mike Greene, about the show and they both agreed to chip in and do some Theatre for the first time. Fate intervened as Bob found out his roommate Eric Johnson was in the first ever production of the show at the University of Iowa and had long wanted to do it again. Bob then found out that another friend, Dennis Cockrum, was in an early workshop of the play.
Bob quickly cast them both, and Dennis asked his friend Dave Florek to direct. During rehearsal, Bob was trying to find a name for his new theatre company. He told Eric that he wanted every show they do to have a great moment, just like in a play they had both done in Chicago, THE BOYS OF THE PEGGY AUGUST CLUB. That show was about a bachelor party and in one scene, a bunch of high school buddies sang along with their favorite song: ”Skypilot” by the Animals. Eric suggested this for a name and SkyPilot Theatre Company was born. JERRY and TOM was a critical success.
A year and a half later, Bob decided he really wanted to make SkyPilot a true ensemble Company. He began to ask a few of his friends from different walks of life to join the new company, moving forward with the idea of keeping it small. And then…
2006 – They produced SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO by David Mamet. It was again a critical success and, this time, people came and saw it. SkyPilot ended 2006, and their “Chicago Trilogy”, with HELLCAB by Will Kern. This was the company’s first big audience success, with frequent sold-out houses. It was also a favorite of the critics, with the Tolucan Times calling it “a rollicking ride” and Backstage gushing that “Hellcab is a slice of heaven for the audience. You know you’re watching a good show when you don’t notice the clock. And this is one great show.”
2009 – SkyPilot Theatre Company more than doubled it’s membership, thanks to the first ever general auditions and they finish the year with the LA premiere of END OF CIVILIZATION by George F. Walker.
2010 – Making a dramatic change and taking on a completely new direction, 2010 saw SkyPilot shift gears away from producing revivals and towards writing and producing only original plays as it’s mission statement. After a series of readings were held in the Spring, more new members were added that September, including new resident playwright Jeff Goode, who recruited nine more resident playwrights to come along for the ride. The Spring readings would become a monthly series of readings of new plays that continues to this day, with all plays cast, directed, and read by resident company members, serving as an evaluation of new and progressing work. Jeff Goode’s play YES, SVETLANA, THERE IS A GRANDFATHER FROST was produced at the Luna Playhouse in Glendale in November to rave reviews.
2011 – SkyPilot produced it’s first Late-Night Series with its World Premiere of REWIND in February, ten one-acts written by the SkyPilot resident playwrights, at the Victory Theatre in Burbank. Next, SkyPilot decided to move into T.U. Studios in North Hollywood for the rest of our 2011 season and opened Jeff Goode’s original work, THE EMANCIPATION OF ALABASTER MCGILL, in May to amazing reviews and audience reaction. SkyPilot followed with it’s next original production, TO THE NEW GIRL… by Samantha Macher, in August. This critically-acclaimed, all-female acted and directed show played to sold-out audiences and forced an extended run. SkyPilot closed out 2011 with the new play 4 MURDERS, by Brett Neveu, in October and November.
2012 – To kick off SkyPilot’s most ambitious season yet and what would become the biggest of it’s three years at T.U., the company produced it’s next night of one-acts for a January-February run, PLANE TALK, all set in various airports across the country. The addition of more new members saw the company grow to it’s biggest ensemble yet, prompting the production of several single-performance nights of workshopped one-acts that were performed mainly on Mondays through the first half of the year. SkyPilot’s first of four full-length, mainstage productions for 2012 was Liz Shannon Miller’s romantic dramedy, LIGHTS OFF, EYES CLOSED. The show played to enthusiastic houses and garnered very good notices and led to SkyPilot’s next production, it’s first musical, the sci-fi themed EARTHBOUND: AN ELECTRONICA MUSICAL. Featuring three resident playwrights on book (Adam Hahn), score (Jonathan Price), and lyrics (Chana Wise), EARTHBOUND sold out it’s entire run through June and July, receiving rave reviews, including SkyPilot’s first PICK OF THE WEEK from the LA Weekly. More acclaim was to follow, with SkyPilot’s next production of Samantha Macher’s post-WWII drama, WAR BRIDE, which received universal raves and played to packed houses through the end of the summer. Closing out it’s biggest year saw the rise and fall of SkyPilot’s “biggest” character yet: KONG: A GODDAMN THIRTY-FOOT GORILLA. Written by Adam Hahn, this surreal, sideways look at the Merian C. Cooper character/legend played an extended run through October and November and continued SkyPilot’s streak of critical acclaim. The end of the year led to the formation of SkyPilot’s first Board of Directors.
2013 – The first half of 2013 found SkyPilot throwing several succesful company fundraisers, featuring evenings of short plays written, directed, and performed by ensemble company members. The monthly reading series continued to develop new works, including SkyPilot’s first mainstage show of the year and it’s second musical, THE ISLAND. Reuniting the team of Jonathan Price (book and music) and Chana Wise (lyrics), THE ISLAND, a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST, found SkyPilot back at T.U. and played it’s summertime run to enthusiastic audiences. By the end of autumn, SkyPilot produced the biblical comedy CHRISTMAS 2, written by Jeff Goode. The show featured a double cast ensemble, ensuring singularly memorable performances each night, and played to packed houses and very good reviews.
2014 – The beginning of this new year was marked by another move. This time, to the NoHo Actors Studio on Lankershim Blvd, in the heart of the NoHo Arts District. To begin their ninth season, SkyPilot offered up TEN-MINUTE BENDERS, an evening of one-acts that ran for five weeks in the new space. Next up will be DETECTIVE PARTNER HERO VILLAIN, written by Brett Neveu, opening in April.
“I HAVE TO PRAISE YOU LIKE I SHOULD…”:
“…Tserkov’s concluding letter at play’s end to little Svetlana,
echoing Church’s famous one, affirms faith, love, and childhood’s delight
and could make Goode’s play a staple offering during many future
Christmas seasons. This cast certainly gives it a heartfelt interpretation…”
“… Earthbound Is a Rare Sci-Fi Musical That Actually Works.
Adam Hahn (book), composer Jonathan Price and lyricist Chana Wise may
have finally broken the sci-fi barrier with this powerfully poignant
and wistful “electronica musical.” The production is a wryly perceptive
musical meditation on both the suicidal folly and the transcendent beauty
of our species’ defining irrationality….”
-LA Weekly (PICK OF THE WEEK)
“…The performances are all solid, but standouts include
Niki Nowak as a sardonic Southern belle married to a
gay television evangelist and Shelby Janes as an abused
pregnant woman who has grown a steel backbone.
…Macher handles the exercise with considerable panache…”
“…It is indeed rare to witness a compelling,
contemporary love story produced on a Los Angeles stage,
notwithstanding one with courage, spirit, and spine.
Such is the case with Lights Off, Eyes Closed.
Liz Shannon Miller’s writing is realistic, soulful, and to the point…”
-NoHo/Toluca Lake Patch
“…The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill is a charming show
with terrific actors all around and an original premise
that stands out among the myriad of equal rights plays
that have flooded our stages. …this is a show
to seek out…”
“…War Bride takes us to a place and time we don’t see depicted
all that often on the stage. One thing is certain: Samantha Macher’s
historical drama with a twist is sure to get you talking
once the lights have come back up following its stunning climax.…”
“…In “Christmas 2,” a world premiere by Skypilot Theatre,
Goode once again strikes a broadly satirical tone. …The result is
frequently hilarious — although those who are sensitive about
their religious archetypes should steer clear.…”
“…Absurdism was derided as useless nihilism. But
if that were true, if there weren’t some moral argument
within the despair, plays like 4 Murders wouldn’t appear
half a century later and a continent away, as reflection
upon our now bruised optimism…”
“…Now terrorizing audiences with uncontrollable laughter,
Adam Hahn’s “Kong: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla,” utilizing
miniature rubber soldiers, dinosaur sock puppets, and cardboard
skyscrapers to tell its tale, is so delightfully bare-bones that
it makes “Silence: The Musical” look like “Les Miz.” …Such is
the wonderfully inane and pleasantly disrespectful humor of “Kong,”
proving anything can be accomplished with a heaping dollop of
“…”Requiem for a Heavyweight” is the “Death of a Salesman”
of the prizefighting world, as powerful today as when the
Rod Serling teleplay first aired in 1956…”
“…You know you’re watching a good show when you
don’t notice the clock. And this is one great show.
Director Eric Johnson’s pacing is strictly pedal-to-the-metal.
And writer Will Kern demonstrates a tremendous ear and deft feel
for realistic dialogue that is spoken by a host of different characters…”
“…Cleverly, imaginatively, yet somewhat naively,
Mamet tell his story. Credit a fine cast and some good direction
to James Sharpe in keeping the play moving as well as it does.
Carlene Bezevic’s interesting 70’s costumes were first rate.
We’ll look forward to future performances by SkyPilot,
this new kid on the block...”
“…Taking Sides, by Ronald Harwood, is powerful, taking place in Berlin,
1946, with gut-wrenching performances by an extraordinary cast…”