Arts In LA

by Julio Martinez, August 28, 2014

Chauntae Pink, Bianca Lemair, Patrick Cragin, Joshua Wolf Coleman, and Heidi James in Bulrusher at Skylight Theatre


Albie Selznick’s adroit mashup of magic and autobiography, Smoke and Mirrors, enjoyed an extensive 13-month run—November 2012 to December 2013—at NoHo’s Road Theatre on Lankershim Boulevard. A newly revised Smoke and Mirrors, again starring Selznick (pictured, photo by Michelle Grant), returns to Road Theatre, helmed by noted director David Schweizer, opening Sept. 13. This run is a precursor to taking the show Off-Broadway to Elektra Theater at Times Square at the beginning of 2015 (date to be announced).


LA Opera debuts a new biannual series of free live video broadcasts sponsored by LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, beginning with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, broadcast in hi-def from Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the big screen at Santa Monica Pier, Sept. 17. The performance stars Nino Machaidze, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, and LA Opera artistic director Plácido Domingo (pictured), conducted by James Conlon.


Paul Stein and The Solo Collective, in residence at VS. Theatre Company on Pico Boulevard, present The Second Annual Solo Collective season of one-person shows, beginning with the premiere of Antonio Sacre’s The Storyteller—examining “what it means to be an artist, storyteller, and human in today’s world”—helmed by Stein, opening Sept. 12. Solo Collective continues with a return engagement of Drew Droege’s Bright Colors and Bold Patterns, three nights only, Oct. 12, 14, and 16. Closing out the season is the debut of improv guru Carla Cackowski’s Gal Invisible (pictured), opening Nov. 16.


Nate Holden Performing Arts Center hosts 2014 NAACP Theatre Festival Sept. 12-14, highlighted by a performance of 2012 NAACP Theatre Award–nominated Sunday Mourning by American Idol finalist Kinnik Sky, helmed by Nic Few.

   In conjunction with ongoing theater workshops, there will also be a series of 10-minute performances crafted by such notables as Roger Guenveur Smith, Alex Morris (pictured) Ted Lange, Saundra McClain, and others.


Lillian Theatre in Hollywood hosts the premiere of Lost the Musical: We Have to Go Back—an unauthorized parody of the ABC series on the 10th anniversary of its premiere—written by Steven Christopher Parker and Steven Brandon, helmed by Brandon, music direction by DeReau K. Farrar, choreography by Heather Ashleigh Rivers, opening Sept. 22.

   Rockwell Table and Stage in Hollywood hosts the premiere of the tuner Roar—three young women discover what it means to be truly human when they must battle for survival in their messy, private worlds—conceived and helmed by VP Boyle (pictured), choreographed by Ambrose Respicio III, musical direction by Brian Kennedy, opening Sept. 12.


La Mirada Theatre opens its 2014–15 season with David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Tony-nominated South Boston–based working-class drama, Good People, helmed by Jeff Maynard, featuring Katie MacNichol, Anne Gee Byrd, Gigi Bermingham (pictured), Wyatt Fenner, Sophina Brown, and Martin Kildare, opening Sept. 20.

   L.A. Theatre Works opens its 2014–15 season of recorded-before-a-live-audience-for-future-radio-broadcast stage works with Dylan Thomas’s “play-for-voices” Under Milk Wood—“a linguistic tour de force about the salty little fishing village of Llareggub”— helmed by Sara Sugarman, featuring a cast of Welsh and Welsh-American actors, opening Sept. 18 at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater.


“This play was originally produced at Urban Stages in New York, which is this tiny space next to Penn Station. It’s really a miracle that it got plucked to be considered for the Pulitzer. because I don’t know who saw it besides me and my family. The play is set in 1955 in this tiny, isolated community called Boonville in Mendocino County. I think it’s my favorite place in the world. I started going up there with my family when I was in high school. The population is only about 475, the same as it was in 1955. It’s the place where I became an artist. I spent time there in this cabin alone and really struggled with whether I was going to be the kind of playwright that would do exactly what my teachers told me to do; or if I was going to write something I had to write, whether it was approved of or not. Well, the cabin has this little wine cellar where I found this book that was originally a dissertation by this man who discovered this local language called Boontling. The book had this whole glossary and history of this dialect that was created by the citizens of Boonville around the turn of the 20th century. It fascinated me that this language was created by a town. and I thought it would be so great to write a play that had this in it. In my play, this language helps separate the town from the outside world, but in 1955 the outside world begins to intrude on life in Boonville.”
Eisa Davis’s Pulitzer-nominated Bulrusher is having its LA premiere at Skylight Theatre in Hollywood, running through Sept. 7.


Construction of Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum, 1962

For the 10th season (1981–82) of his tenure as artistic director of Ahmanson Theatre at downtown LA’s Music Center, Robert Fryer hopes to silence ongoing complaints about the theater’s poor acoustics by upgrading the sound system and scheduling an all-star lineup: Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton; Paul Osborne’s Morning’s at Seven, featuring Teresa Wright, Maureen O’Sullivan, Kate Reid, Elizabeth Wilson, and Richard Dysart; Anastasia, starring Natalie Wood (making her stage debut) and Wendy Hiller; and Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest, starring Dorothy McGuire, Tovah Feldshuh, Virginia Capers, and Dysart.

   Fryer’s planned season goes awry when Wood drowns on Nov. 29, 1981, while on a weekend excursion to Catalina Island with her husband, Robert Wagner. Fryer decides to move Another Part of the Forest into the season third spot, scheduled to open Feb. 12, 1982. The Ahmanson honcho now needs to find a suitable “Ahmanson play”—a star-driven but “important” drama—to close out the season.

   During this time, Catalina Production Group, founded in 1980 by former superagent Franklin R. Levy and television actor Gregory Harrison (Trapper John, M.D.), is enjoying phenomenal success with a revival of John Patrick’s 1945 wartime hospital drama, The Hasty Heart, at CAST-at-the-Circle Theatre in Hollywood, directed by Martin Speer, which is in production at the time of Wood’s demise.

   Longtime publicist Flo Selfman recalls, “The show was reviewed by about 50 press—largely due to Frank, not me! I hadn’t begun doing their theater PR yet—and 49 were raves.” Fryer is well acquainted with Levy. In 1973, Levy packaged two of his agency clients—Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway—for Ahmanson’s production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, honoring the 25th anniversary of that play’s premiere on Broadway. Levy invites Fryer to see The Hasty Heart at Cast. Fryer is impressed and returns for a second viewing.

   In January 1982, the decision is made to move Catalina’s The Hasty Heart from its 99-seat home to the 2,072-seat Ahmanson—the first time this has occurred in LA stage history—scheduled to open April 16, 1982. Catalina associate Leslie Moonves (now president and CEO of CBS Corporation) was brought on as a producer. Along the way, two of the original lauded cast members—Edward Edwards and Jennifer Salt—are replaced with former Disney child film star Kurt Russell (making his stage debut) and fledgling film actor Lisa Eichhorn (pictured, with Harrison and Russell, photo by Jay Thompson). Although this enlarged production is generally well-received, Herald Examiner theater critic Jack Viertel reveals, “...much of The Hasty Heart was inaudible from the poorer seats in the house, giving rise to a whole new series of complaints about the house and its inherent disadvantages.”

   The theater’s interior is “gutted and refitted” in 1989. Ahmanson begins its 2014–15 season Sept. 17 with Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, starring Cicely Tyson.

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). This Friday, Aug 29, Martinez welcomes playwright-magician Albie Selznick and director David Schweizer, discussing the return of Smoke and Mirrors to Road Theatre in NoHo prior to its move to Off-Broadway.



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


   * Theater reviews of The Threepenny Opera, Trying, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Motorcity Magic


   * Theater reviews of Spring Awakening, Race, Happy Days, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, and more

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