Melissa Chalsma and Luis Gallindo in Independent Shakespeare Company’s 2014 Taming of the Shrew
GEFFEN’S 2OTH ANNIVERSARY 2015–16 SEASON
Geffen Playhouse in Westwood celebrates its 20 years of existence with a high-profile, eight-play, 2015–16 schedule, beginning with the West Coast debut of Yale Repertory Theatre’s These Paper Bullets!—“a modish ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing”—scripted by Rolin Jones, with songs by multi-Grammy winner Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day, American Idiot), helmed by Jackson Gay (Sept 8–Oct. 18), a co-production with Atlantic Theater Company. Also having its West Coast premiere is Guards at the Taj—“a violently beautiful, gruesomely funny comedy” by Pulitzer finalist Rajiv Joseph (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo), helmed by Giovanna Sardelli (Oct. 6–Nov. 15). Geffen’s 2015 programming concludes with the LA premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar—a romantic comedy set in the Irish countryside—staged by Geffen artistic director Randall Arney (pictured) (Nov. 10–Dec. 20).
In 2016, Geffen’s schedule features two more West Coast debuts, beginning with Barcelona—a “searing and seductive look at values and cultural collisions”—scripted by Bess Wohl (pictured), helmed by Trip Cullman (Feb. 2–March 13); and Sex With Strangers, by Laura Eason—focusing on two writers approaching love, sex, and literature in comically different ways, helmed by Kimberly Senior (March 1–April 10). Having premiered on Broadway in 2014, Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss—intermingling romantic comedy and backstage farce—makes its way to the Geffen, helmed by Bart DeLorenzo (pictured) (April 15–May 15). The season closes with the premiere of Big Sky, a family comedy by Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, directed by Tony winner John Rando (June 7–July 17). An eighth production will be announced at a later date. All performances will be staged at either Gil Cates or Audrey Skirball Kenis theaters at Geffen Playhouse.
LATC LEAPS INTO SPRING
Los Angeles Theatre Center–based Latino Theater Company launches its spring season by hosting all-Latina Teatra Luna (pictured) from Chicago and Hindsight Productions, beginning with Teatra Luna’s ensemble-created Marimachas: A Coquetish Comedy Cabaret, April 10, for one night only. Hindsight Productions offers Dreamscape, scripted and helmed by Rickerby Hinds—“a meditation on and reimagining of the night of Dec. 28, 1998, when 19-year-old Tyisha Miller was shot by four Riverside Police Dept. officers,” opening April 16. Teatra Luna concludes its LATC residency with Generation Sex—“exploring how technology has transformed our interactions with sex and love”—developed by the ensemble, helmed by Alexandra Meda, opening April 17.
OPC HONORS GORDON DAVIDSON & JUDY OVITZ
The 18th annual Ojai Playwrights Conference kicks off with a gala honoring former Center Theatre Group artistic director Gordon Davidson (pictured) and arts patron Judy Ovitz, May 2 at Matilija Auditorium in Ojai, highlighted by Show-Stoppers, a 90-minute cabaret, created and staged by OPC Artistic Director–Producer Robert Egan, with musical direction by Emmy-winner Lance Egan. Musical participants include Broadway stars Davis Gaines, Dale Kristien, and Jennifer Paz; and singer-actor Jennifer Leigh Warren. Other participants include writer-performers Luis Alfaro, Jon Robin Baitz, and Charlayne Woodard, as well as actor Noah Wyle.
‘MURDER FOR TWO’ FOR TWO
The original New York cast of the 2013 Off-Broadway hit two-person musical whodunit, Murder for Two, arrives The Geffen’s intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, featuring a book by Kellen Blair, music and lyrics Joe Kinosian, helmed by Scott Schwartz, starring Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback (pictured), opening June 3.
Independent Shakespeare Co. (pictured above) stages The Spring Frolic, a one-day benefit—featuring favorite scenes and songs from past performances—to celebrate and support Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, the annual 10-week summer presentation of 40 classical theater performances, education workshops, preshow arts performances, and salon-style discussions, all presented admission-free. The event will be held April 26 at Barnsdall Park’s Gallery Theatre in Hollywood.
Actors Co-Op closes out its 2014–15 season with Around the World in 80 Days, by Mark Brown, adapted from the novel by Jules Verne, helmed by Rhonda Kohl, opening May 8 at Actors Co-Op’s David Schall Theatre on the campus of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.
Looking ahead, 2010 coming-of-age rock tuner Girlfriends—inspired by the 1991 pop album by singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet—with book by Todd Almond, helmed by Les Waters, will make its LA debut at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, opening July 19.
THE THING IS...
Monica Piper in Not That Jewish
“About seven years ago, my friend Ronda Spinak, artistic director of Jewish Women’s Theater, called me and asked if I would write some original pieces and perform them. I whined, ‘But Ronda, I’m not that Jewish.’ She said, ‘Yes you are. Just create from the heart.’ So, I thought, ‘Oy, how am I going to do this?’ I started thinking and decided I would go back to the beginning, hanging out at my grandma’s house when I was 5 years old, hearing these crazy Yiddish words rolling off her tongue. As soon as she saw me, she would exclaim, ‘Here’s my shayna maideleh (pretty little girl). Then she would turn to my grandfather. ‘Lou, isn’t she a shayna maideleh, He was a man of few words, usually ‘Uggh.’ So, I started writing about that, which led to other stories such as Shmatatude, about growing up with a very funny father. This led me to dig deeper, such as my marriage to a white Anglo Saxon Protestant, my family’s acceptance of that, as well as what worked and what didn’t work in my marriage. Eventually I had written a body of work that I was performing at JWT’s in-home salons. The stories were getting a fabulous response. I was getting popular as a writer of my Jewish roots, which I never really thought I had. Then someone approached me and said I really needed to put this into a solo show. Now, I’ve been a standup comic since 1980. I am used to trying to get a laugh every 10 seconds. The idea of creating an actual show out of these very personal stories scared me to death. But here I am.”
—Monica Piper’s Not That Jewish runs at The Braid in Santa Monica through May 17.
INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY
In early 1925, eight transplanted Broadway thesps who had come to Hollywood to break into the movies—George Read, Robert Edesen, Fred Esmelton, Alfonz Ethier, John Sainpolis, Robert Schable, Ned Sparks, and Warner Baxter—long for the actors’ camaraderie they enjoyed as members of The Lambs Club back in New York. On May 25, The Masquers Club is officially founded, declaring its motto to be, “We Laugh to Win.” Within six months, there are more than 100 official members and growing, soon to include a “who’s who” of Hollywood stars—all men.
In 1927, the Club’s official residence is established at 1765 N. Sycamore Ave. in Hollywood (pictured). Ongoing activities include stage performances (called “revels”) performed by all-male casts that include John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, and Oliver Hardy performing excerpts from Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. The Club even produces two-reel comedy shorts.
In 1933, Masquers is active in the founding of Screen Actors Guild. Masquers also donates many hours, volunteering during WWII and its aftermath. In 1948, director John Ford comes up with the idea of creating a huge stage event to take on tour to raise money for wounded veterans organizations. Ford decides to mount the 1924 Maxwell Anderson–Laurence Stallings World War I play, What Price Glory? All of Masquers members volunteer to perform without pay.
Stage pro Ralph Murphy directs; Ford supervises. The cast includes Ward Bond, Pat O’Brien, John Wayne (making his stage debut), Gregory Peck, Forrest Tucker, Ed Begley, Wallace Ford, Robert Armstrong, Harry Carey Jr., Larry Blake, Charles Kemper, Jimmy Lydon, Jim Davis, Luis Alberni, Oliver Hardy, and two actresses: Maureen O’Hara and French film star Charmaine. The nightly rehearsals are held at Masquers, including final dress on Feb. 21, 1949, attended by 450 invited guests, including Secretary of the Navy John Sullivan, introduced by actor Jimmy Stewart. The production tours California, with one-night-only performances in Long Beach, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Pasadena Playhouse, finally closing at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on March 2.
Moving into the 1950s, membership in Masquers begins to decline, despite the long-delayed inclusion of women into its ranks. By the 1980s, Masquers decides it can no longer financially sustain its Sycamore Avenue home. It is sold and demolished in 1985. Masquers Club continues as an entertainment industry service organization.
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