The Open Fist Theatre Company was founded in 1990 by five graduates of Cal State Fullerton. Under the Artistic Directorship of Ziad Hamzeh, the Company immediately established its reputation as a cutting edge ensemble, willing to tackle difficult plays. Under the leadership of present Artistic Director Martha Demson, the company has evolved into a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members.
For its first fifteen seasons, the Company’s physical plant was located at 1625 North La Brea. Over the years, the Company built it into one of the most innovative and technically advanced venues on the 99-seat theatre scene. Prior to the Open Fist tenure, the building housed the Troupers (vaudevillians), Bob Hope’s dance rehearsal hall, a puppet theatre and a nightclub. The loss and ultimate destruction of that property in 2005 came as a practical and spiritual blow to the Company. In an effort to remain in Hollywood, the Company joined with the Community Redevelopment Agency Hollywood to study the problem of arts retention. The resulting program HARP (Hollywood Arts Retention Program) is currently working with 6 theatres (of which the Open Fist is one) and 6 education/arts institutions with the goal of finding permanent affordable housing solutions for each. The program is currently in Year 2 and the Open Fist is close to completing its strategic plan, a prerequisite for partnership with developers and the City of Los Angeles. During this interim period, the Company has taken up residency in the former home of The Actors’ Gang (another casualty of the extraordinary increase in lease costs – The Actors’ Gang relocated to Culver City with financial support coming from that community.) The Company is able to afford the unsustainable rent due to the generosity of lead Board Member Jim Gauer, who committed to four years support while the Company endeavors to find a more rational solution with the CRA Hollywood.
The name of the Open Fist Theatre Company comes from two principles we believe to be exceedingly important. The first is the notion that an Open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas is essential. The second is that the Fist, a sign of determination and even force, is necessary for the theatre to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness. At all times the Open Fist Theatre Company has remained dedicated to the pursuit of these two ambitions