Arts In LA
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, July 17, 2014



Andrew Graves, Kevin Stidham, Patrick Quinlan, John McKenna, and Kacey Camp
Photo by Michele Young


PREMIERES

Making its West Coast debut, Billy Roche’s Lay Me Down Softly—a tale of love and pugilism, set in 1960s Ireland, opened this week at Burbank’s Theatre Banshee, helmed by Banshee artistic director Sean Branney, runs through Aug. 23.

   In conjunction with its late night Off The Clock scheduling, Rogue Machine on Pico Boulevard presents the premiere of Paternus—chronicling the evolving relationship of a father and adult son, struggling to survive a relentless snowstorm with only their RV for protection—scripted by Daphne Malfitano, helmed by Mark St. Amant, starring Darrell Larson and Timothy Walker, opening July 18, running Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30pm.

   Up in Ventura, Rubicon Theatre Company hosts a limited West Coast debut run of Will Eno’s Title and Deed—“a lyrical, haunting, funny celebration of life and language”—starring Irish actor Conor Lovett, for whom the play was written, directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett, playing July 23–27.

   Odyssey Theatre in West LA hosts the West Coast premiere of Sacred Elephant—a solo work probing man’s relationship with the planet’s largest land mammal—scripted by Jeremy Crutchley and Geoffrey Hyland, adapted from the poem by Heathcote Williams, performed by Crutchley, helmed by Hyland, opening July 25.

   The LA premiere of The Protagonist—focusing on two brothers living their own versions of the American dream, each unable to understand the rationale of the other—scripted by Tim Livingston, staged by Jeremy Guskin, opens July 25 at Lillian Theatre in Hollywood.


AROUND TOWN

International City Theatre revives Canadian playwright Joanna McClelland Glass’s 1984 two-person drama, Trying, inspired by Glass’s real-life experiences as personal secretary to 81-year-old Judge Francis Biddle—former chief judge at the Nuremberg Trials—helmed by John Henry Davis, starring Tony Abatemarco (pictured) and Paige Lindsey White, opening Aug. 22.

   In Pasadena, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Circle X Theatre Co. have extended the run of Stupid Fucking Bird—an irreverent remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull—scripted by Aaron Posner, directed by Michael Michetti, now playing through Aug. 10.

   Shakespeare Orange County extends its run of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, staged by Susan Angelo, adding performances on July 31 and Aug. 1. Set in 18th-century Polynesia, the production features 60-member Garden Grove–based Polynesian dance group Hitia O Te R, led by Alex Tekurio.

THE THING IS...

“I was encouraged by a lot of friends to write a one-woman show, but I didn’t know what to write about. So, I decided to start with poetry. I went to the Soaring Solo Workshop in Sherman Oaks, taught by my director Jessica Lyn Johnson. Every week I would go and every week I wouldn’t perform, because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about and I was very really nervous about performing. Then, one day in my journal, I found one of the most vulnerable poems I had ever written, and I decided I was going to get up and share it. I did, and my classmates seemed so interested in it that I realized I would have to write a one-woman show about that, about the thing that happened in my life I wanted to forget. Then I would have to get up on stage and perform it. I wasn’t sure it was going to actually work, but it developed from poem to poem, and over the past year it became a show. This is my debut as a playwright. I’ve had three performances, and I’ve discovered the audience affects the show greatly. I had one audience that laughed so much, it completely stopped me. I had to keep finding my place because they would laugh and then they would suddenly stop and I had to fill this quiet. This has been a great learning experience for me. I love it and I am going to keep going with this.
Kyla Garcia performs her solo work, The Mermaid Who Learned How to Fly, July 25, at Theatre Asylum in Hollywood.

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY



Ken Danziger, John Francis, Gillian Eaton, and Paddi Edwards
Photo by Hariton-Baral Design

Actor-playwright-director Steven Berkoff is born in the East End of London on Aug. 3, 1937, of Romanian-Russian-Jewish descent. Expressing a love for theater at an early age, Berkoff follows his public school education by attending Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art (1958). He begins his theater training at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Barrow-in-Furness (1962). His first original works are verse plays—East (1975), Greek (1980), and Decadence (1981)—self-fashioning himself as “the bad boy of British theatre.” British drama critic Aleks Sierz dubs Berkoff’s dramatic approach as “In-yer-face theatre. At its best, this kind of theater is so powerful, so visceral, that it forces audiences to react...by fleeing the theater or embracing it as the best thing they have ever seen.”

   In 1981, Susan Albert Loewenberg of LA Theatre Works options Greek—Berkoff’s jaundiced retelling of the Oedipus myth—starring Ken Danziger, John Francis, Gillian Eaton, and Paddi Edwards, opening April 30, 1982, at Matrix Theatre in West Hollywood. In the 1982 edition of California Theatre Annual, LA Times theater critic Sylvie Drake proclaims, “Amid a vast proliferation of junk were pockets of impressive stuff—none more astonishing than the L.A. Theatre Works production of Greek.”

   Berkoff (pictured) has found a theatrical home in LA. While earning a solid living portraying a wide assortment of villains in such films as Beverly Hills Cop, The Krays, Octopussy,and more, Berkoff associates himself with a number of local theaters, highlighted by his long-running Kvetch (1986) at Odyssey Theatre in West LA. His output includes Acapulco (1990) and East (1990) at the Odyssey; Lunch (1992) at the Powerhouse in Santa Monica; solo works One Man (1994) at Freud Playhouse, Massage (1997) and Shakespeare’s Villains (1999) at the Odyssey; and Brighton Beach Scumbags (2000) at the Lillian in Hollywood.

   Confining his post-2000 stage work mostly to Britain, Berkoff is scheduled to perform in a revival of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, helmed by Oscar-winner William Friedkin, scheduled to open mid-February of this year. It is postponed indefinitely. On Feb. 1, LA Times writer David Ng reports, “The cause of the postponement was the sudden departure of British actor Steven Berkoff, with accounts differing as to whether he resigned voluntarily or was effectively dismissed from the production.” Berkoff is currently touring his latest work,The Actor’s Lament, throughout Great Britain.


Julio Martinez hosts Arts in Review—celebrating the best in live theater and cabaret in Greater Los Angeles—on Fridays, 2–2:30pm, on KPFK (90.7FM).
 

 
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, July 10, 2014


The stage and seating of Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum

LA COUNTY ARTS ORGS GARNER MORE THAN $4.5 MILLION IN GRANTS


LA County Arts Commission has revealed that 180 county-based arts organizations have received 2014-15 grants ranging from $3,600 to $233,000, offering “funding to pay for salaries and job creation.” Venice-based LA Theatre Works, founded and directed by Susan Albert Loewenberg (pictured) received the largest live theater company grant ($66,300).

   Other local theater company grantees receiving significant stipends include 24th Street Theatre ($33,800), A Noise Within ($36,600), Actors Gang Inc. ($30,500), Cornerstone Theater Company ($40,000), East West Players Inc. ($59,700), Odyssey Theatre Foundation ($37,500), and The Theatre @ Boston Court ($46,100). A complete list of all grantees and detailed grant information is available at lacountyarts.org/grants.


THEATRICUM HOLDS BIRTHDAY BASH HONORING THE BARD’S 450TH

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon honors William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday with an all-day celebration, Saturday, July 26. Guests include historically conjured Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare himself.

   Current notables in attendance will be UK Deputy British Consul Barbara Greene; British Council West Coast director Simon Gammell, OBE; LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; and Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson and Dr. Paul Prescott of Shakespeare on the Road, which is in the process of a 60-day road trip to Shakespeare festivals across the US to document American celebrations of this theatrical milestone.


ROAD THEATRE HOSTS SUMMER PLAYWRIGHTS FEST

Road Theatre Company in NoHo stages its fifth-annual Summer Playwrights Festival—38 plays in eight days—overseen by festival director Scott Alan Smith, held at both Road on Lankershim in Lankershim Arts Center and Road at Magnolia, housed at NoHo Senior Arts Colony, July 27–Aug. 4.

   Represented playwrights include Pulitzer Prize winner D.L. Coburn, Lisa Loomer, Leon Martell (pictured), Catherine Butterfield, Marisa Wegrzyn, Kate Robin, Tom Jacobson, and more, touting an equal representation of male and female scripters.



SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE GETS NEW SEASON, NEW MANAGEMENT

Sierra Madre Playhouse reveals a new slate of season shows, beginning with Bob Randall’s 1972 comedy, 6 Rms Riv Vu, helmed by Sherrie Lofton, opening Aug. 1. The bill o’ fare continues with the LA premiere of Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles, chronicling the unlikely bonding between a 91-year-old grandmother and her 21-year-old son, helmed by Christian Lebano, opening Sept. 26. This year’s holiday spotlight will be A Little House Christmas, adapted by James DeVita from the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, helmed by Emily Chase, opening Nov. 28.

   The new year kicks off with the young audience matinee tuner Einstein Is a Dummy, book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, helmed by Mary Jo Duprey, opening Jan. 16, 2015. Lee Blessing’s 1987 Pulitzer nominee, A Walk in the Woods, helmed by Geoffrey Wade, opens Jan. 30, 2015.

   A “classic America comedy,” helmed by Alan Brooks, is promised for the March 20 slot, to be announced. The season closes with perennial bio tuner Always…Patsy Cline, scripted by Ted Swindley, helmed by Robert Marra, featuring 13 Cline hits, opening May 28.

   Guiding the playhouse is a new management team comprising managing director Estelle Campbell, director of operations Ward Calaway, and technical director Ben Womick.


PREMIERES

VS. Theatre hosts Inkwell Theatre’s premiere of Luigi—a reunion during the last days of a family patriarch reveals the intergenerational connection of family—scripted by Louise Munson, helmed by Annie McVey, opening July 18.


AROUND TOWN

Deanna Dunagan (lead actress Tony winner), Rondi Reed (featured actress Tony winner) (pictured with Dunagan), Kimberly Guerrero, Francis Guinan, and Mariann Mayberry—cast members from the original Steppenwolf and Broadway productions of Tracy Letts’s 2008 Pulitzer-winning August: Osage County—reunite for an L.A. Theatre Works recorded-before-a-live-audience-for-future-radio-broadcast staging at James Bridges Theater on the campus of UCLA, helmed by Bart DeLorenzo, opening July 10 (five performances only). They will be joined by Ron Livingston, Rosemary DeWitt, Robert Pine, and others.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY



On a Friday night in February 1929, Wayside Artists’ Colony on Atlantic Avenue hosts a gathering of folks, answering an invitation “to align themselves with a movement to sponsor creative dramatic art in Long Beach.” Reporter Vera Kackle Williams of the Press Telegram estimates an attendance of more than 700 would-be thesps, resulting in the creation of The Long Beach Theatre Guild.

   From 1929 to 1931, Guild productions are staged at Wayside, as well as such venues as Masonic Temple and Pacific Coast Club’s Library (dubbed the Playbox), finally finding a home at the Capitol Theater. On Feb. 10, 1933—closing night of the comedy Let Us Be Gay—Long Beach is struck by a massive earthquake, severely damaging the Capitol, closing down productions for months.

   Finding a temporary home at Municipal Auditorium, LB Theatre Guild opens with another comedy, Louder Please. In 1935, the Guild establishes its first permanent home, transforming an aged and deserted Union Pacific depot at First Street and Alamitos Avenue. For the next four years, productions are guided by such pros as Larry Johns and Elias Day, nurturing such future Hollywood stars as Laraine Day, Robert Mitchum, and Hugh Beaumont. In the summer of 1939, the ensemble officially charters itself as not-for-profit Long Beach Community Players.

   In 1941, the Long Beach Fire Department condemns the depot theater, causing a temporary move to a Unitarian Church on Lime Street, where the company resides until 1951, under the leadership of character actor Herbert Yenne. Space restrictions requires Yenne to abandon proscenium staging in favor of “center staging,” placing the actors and audience into closer proximity. By1950, these “avant garde” stagings prove so successful with the public, funding is secured to build a permanent facility at 5021 E. Anaheim, opening in 1951 as 200-seat Long Beach Playhouse.

   Yenne is replaced by Johns in 1954, overseeing an expansion of the space through 1964, adding an art gallery, the upstairs 98-seat Studio Theater, and a covered patio. Over the next five decades, LBP establishes a successful format of presenting mainstream fare on its Mainstage, while introducing Long Beach audiences to riskier, contemporary playwrights such as Christopher Durang, Eric Overmyer, David Mamet, and Jose Rivera in the Studio, presenting an overall 16 plays per year, as well as hosting an annual New Works Festival, enjoying its status as “the oldest continuously operating community theater west of the Mississippi River.”

   Under the leadership of artistic director Andrew Vonderschmitt since 2009, LBP is currently adhering to a company “tradition” of closing its mainstage season with a musical: 1964 multi-Tony-winning Fiddler on the Roof —wrought by Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), and Joseph Stein (book)—helmed by LBP vet Phylis Gitlin, choreographed by Ellen Prince, opening July 12.
 

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Fitzmaurice Voicework
with Lisa Pelikan
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Fountain Theatre
The Brothers Size
June 7–Sept. 14

www.FountainTheatre.com

 
 
 
NEW THIS WEEK

   * Theater reviews of Sordid Lives, We Will Rock You, Buyer & Cellar, Always...Patsy Cline, The Sexual Lives of Savages, Dixie's Tupperware Party



COMING NEXT....

   * Theater reviews of Taming of the Shrew, Hair, 6 Rms Riv View, Beauty and the Beast, Damn Yankees, Once, Lay Me Down Softly, and more

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