COVID-19 Theater Series: Rogue Machine's Journey Beyond Adversity - An Interview with John Perrin Flynn


Leading one of L.A.’s most prestigious theatre companies for twelve years, John Perrin Flynn has nurtured Rogue Machine from the seed of an idea into a group of over 300 artists with an impressive array of accolades and awards. Most recently, he helmed two epic productions, the American premiere of Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer and the west coast premiere of Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London. John received the LA Weekly “Career Achievement Award,” just one of over one hundred awards during his tenure with the company. He was the executive producer and director of Lifetime’s award-winning series Strong Medicine and has produced two other series and 14 television movies or miniseries, including the Emmy nominated Burden of Proof. John took time from his busy schedule to interview in April 2020.


When did Rogue Machine First Begin? Were you involved from the start? Who/what/where was it founded?

John Perrin Flynn:  Our inaugural production was in 2008. The prior year, I had happened to read a new play by a young playwright who was looking for a director. The play was called Lost and Found and the playwright was John Pollono. As soon as I read it, I knew that I had to direct it. We ran it at the Lounge Theatre. Later that year, I directed the West Coast premiere of Craig Lucas's Small Tragedy at the Odyssey Theatre. Afterwards, I was invited to pitch plays at a couple of local venues. By then, John Pollono was working on another new play. I had also begun to work with Henry Murray, developing his Tree Fall; and I quickly learned that none of the companies that I was approaching were interested in producing new work.

Cast of "Pocatello" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

I brought together three disparate groups: theater friends I had made during my time as a television producer; theater friends I had made doing the two plays I had recently directed; and theater friends from the time I was artistic director of Theater Exchange in North Hollywood. We all felt that there were already too many theaters in Los Angeles. At the same time, there seemed to be a need for one which would produce new work and the edgier kind of new work which was then coming out of Chicago, New York, and London. In early 2008, the opportunity to share the Theatre/Theater space on Pico Boulevard opened up and we decided to take the leap.

Ron Bottitta and Tucker Smallwood in "The Sunset Limited" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

How about a brief timeline of changes at they occurred?

JPF:  We began running our monthly salon “Rant and Rave,” which has continued to be one of our most popular programs. We converted a classroom at the space into a second smaller stage. Our programming for that stage brought us a great deal of attention. We opened Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited with Tucker Smallwood and Ron Bottitta. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz designed the small one-room urban apartment set that worked brilliantly. The show became an LA Times Critics’ Choice and ran for five months. We modified that set and opened John Pollono’s third play as a late-night show. It was Small Engine Repair, which ran for six months until we had to move it to open Joel Drake Johnson's Four Places, for which we received our first Ovation Award for Best Production.

Small Engine Repair swept the Los Angeles Award season, winning best production and many other awards. Our fifth season brought us the long-running hit Dirty Filthy Love Story by Rob Mersola and our first collaborations with playwrights Samuel Hunter and Enda Walsh. The sixth season brought us Pollono’s Lost Girls and Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami, which became our largest box office hit ever. It ended up having multiple productions around the world, including at the Donmar Warehouse in England. We closed that season with Christopher Shinn’s Dying City, which won us our second Ovation award for best production. The eighth season was an abbreviated season because rent increases forced us out - but not before we did our second Sam Hunter play, A Permanent Image. We moved to The Met Theatre in our ninth season and opened with a strong season of multi-award nominated productions, including Hunter’s Pocatello, and Greg Keller’s Honky and Dutch Masters.

Shari Gardner Desean, Kevin Terry, and Jelani Blunt in "Les Blancs" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Our tenth season featured the first ever professional production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs in Los Angeles, as well as a collaboration with the Getty Villa of a modern-day refugee version of Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Women.

We were forced to move once again during our twelfth season, but not before we produced the American premiere of Dionna Michelle Daniel’s American Saga: Gunshot Medley Part I. We moved to the Electric Lodge in Venice and in the fall, where we opened Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer and Joe Gifford's Finks. We closed our latest season with the world premiere productions of Disposable Necessities by Neil McGowan (an LA Times Critics’ Choice) and Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London.

Over the past few months, how has COVID-19 impacted your theater?

JPF:  We were fortunate that we had closed the twelfth season in early March. At that time, we weren’t sure if we would open again until July. Now we have no idea when theaters will be allowed to reopen and we don’t know what the final damage to the economy will be. Fundraising may be more difficult. We understand our existence is imperiled; but all of us, Rogue Machine’s Board and staff, are determined to survive. There is a proverb that “Adversity creates opportunity.” Many theaters are attempting to build an online audience during this period of isolation. We will be offering some programming as well.

Corey Dorris and Josh Zuckerman in "Dutch Masters" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Are you streaming shows? Having virtual meetings? Are you planning for your next show when you reopen?

JPF:  We have most of our next season in place. We will open with a world premiere production of Justin Tanner’s Little Theatre, directed by Lisa James and starring Jennie O’Hara. We are also planning to produce the American premiere of Timothy Daly’s Man in the Attic, with French and Vanessa Stewart and Rob Nagle.

I am participating in weekly meetings with LA area artistic directors to see what we can do collectively, now and in the future, when theaters reopen.

John Pollono, Jon Bernthal, Josh Helman, and Michael Redfield in "Small Engine Repair" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

What do you think will be the impact of COVID-19 on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you forsee any permanent changes?

JPF:  I suspect that some organizations will not be able to survive this shutdown, particularly if they have leases and rent to pay. I think it might be a long time before things return to a semblance of how they were. Some people that were key to how intimate theatre operated may be forced to take up other careers.

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public?

JPF:  Funding. I am concerned about our employees. We have applied for the SBA paycheck protection loan, but the funding ran out before we were approved. If more funding is forthcoming, we will be able to offer some employment to the staff, all of whom have been laid off. I want our theater public to stay safe and come out of this healthy, and hungry for the common bonds that live theater encourages.

Joshua Bitton, Burl Moseley, and Jennifer Pollono in "Dirty Filthy Love Story" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

What are some of your future plans?

JPF:  We plan to do some online programming, which includes a joint project called “Common Ground” with The Road Theatre. We may also stream some live readings and something with “Rant and Rave.” In addition to the plays that I mentioned, we are hoping to do another Samuel D. Hunter play; and we are reading a number of new plays during this forced hiatus.


This article first appeared in Splash Worldwide.



JOAN OF ART - BEING GRATEFUL, A Night of Magic, A Profound Film, Unique Food and a Powerful Play

After a week of devastation due to the fires that have destroyed so many homes, displaced pets and destroyed food sources for our wildlife some may find it hard to feel grateful. I had to evacuate for a week and luckily Topanga Canyon where I live was spared.

Having said all this my favorite holiday is coming up this week, a time not only for sharing delicious food with family and friends, but reflecting on what I feel grateful for. At the top of the list are those amazing firefighters that are our true heroes.

It's also a weekend full of fun events starting with A VERY MAGIC MANIA at the Santa Monica Playhouse located at 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica.

I for one love magic and I will certainly be at this. Magic Mania is created by and hosted by actor and magician extraordinaire, Albe Selznick. He is a lifetime member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and created the theatrical smash hit 'Smoke and Mirrors' which I've seen three times.

The show runs about 75 minutes and features an ever changing lineup of over 100 world famous magic and variety acts including Max Maven, Steve Valentine, Jon Armstrong, Pop Haydn, Ben Seidman, David Deeble, Dana Daniels, Bruce Gold, George Tovar, Christopher Hart and so many more great magicians.

For more information email info@MagicMondayLA.com or call 310-450-2849. The show opens on Saturday 8:00pm November 24rth. The pre-show starts at 7:30pm.

Magic Mania runs Sunday, November 25th at 3:00pm, Sunday, December 2nd at 3:00pm, Saturday, December 8th at 8:00pm, Sunday, December 9th at 3:00pm, Saturday, December 15th at 8pm, Sunday, December 16th at 3pm, Saturday, December 22nd at 8:00pm and Sunday, December 23rd at 3:00pm.

This is a great show for kids and grownups or grownups who are really big kids at heart, myself included.

Next is one of my favorite films of the year, GREEN BOOK starring Vigo Mortensen, who gives one of his best performances in his career and the wonderful Mahershala Ali 'Green Book' is based on a true story about a working class Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) who becomes a driver for an African American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a concert tour through the south in 1962.

The film directed by Peter Farrelly deals with racial discrimination and Jim Crow laws such as white-only restaurants and hotels. But it's also the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between these two very different men.

'Green Book' will make you angry, will make you laugh and in the end even make you cry. I know I teared up. This is a beautiful film and definitely on my 'must see' list. It opens in theaters Wednesday, November 21st.

Now if you don't feel like cooking on Thanksgiving or anytime this weekend I suggest you make a reservation at this truly fantastic and unique restaurant called THE BAZAAR by Jose Andres. I'll be there Friday night. Jose Andres is an extraordinary culinary wizard and his restaurant offers ground breaking culinary artistry by this Michelin starred chef.

The Bazaar takes you on a wild sensory adventure born of Jose's Spanish roots both traditional and advent-garde in a bold and playful atmosphere where anything is possible. I've eaten here several times and I'm always wonderfully surprised. The Bazaar is located in the SLS Hotel at 465 La Cienega Blvd Los Angeles. For reservations call 310-246-5555.

For more information and to check out the menu go to TheBazaar.com.

Finally on Sunday I will be at my favorite theatre company The Rogue Machine which has just relocated to the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue, Venice CA where I will be seeing their new play FINKS. It stars French Stewart as Mickey Hobbs a New York nightclub comic. The play takes place during the McCarthy era and is based on playwright Joe Gilford's parents.

It asks the question "what would you do." Name names or risk your career...A question many artists had to ask themselves in the 1950's. Considering what is going on in this country now, 'Finks' is a reminder about a different time that could possibly happen again.

For more information or to purchase tickets go to RogueMachineTheatre.net. Finks directed by Michael Pressman opened November 10th and plays through Sunday, December 2nd.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone and whatever you choose to do this weekend have a great one.


Ashton's Audio Interview: French Stewart - Harry Solomon on the 1990s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun stars in "FINKS" at the Electric Lodge

On the verge of TV stardom, a comic meets an actress/activist, their romance blossoms—as does their risk of being blacklisted for their political activities. The House Un-American Activities Committee, tasked with exposing communist subversion, conducted hearings which lead to more than 300 directors, actors, radios personalities, and screenwriters to be boycotted by studios. Friends were turned against friends, and family. Most who were named never recovered their careers. Those who willingly testify—naming others to the committee—will be branded as "finks."*
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “FINKS” at the Electric Lodge, running until Dec 30th. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


Ashton's Audio Interview: French Stewart - Harry Solomon on the 1990s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun stars in "Forever Bound" at Atwater Village Theatre

According to Apostolina, the play is an homage to David Mamet's American Buffalo as well as to George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. “I don't want to give away too much about the plot,” he says. “Suffice to say that in an attempt to save his dying business, the book dealer and his friend concoct a risky scheme that goes shockingly awry. Circumstances will ultimately challenge their moral compasses.”
Enjoy this interview about “Forever Bound” directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky and staring French Stewart(Harry Solomon in a recurring role on the TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun) at Atwater Village Theatre, running until June 16th. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.