Arts In LA
Arts In LA has been on a much-needed break for a week. LA Stage Insider will return for its March 27 issue.

 
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, March 13, 2015


Brian Dykstra in Brian Dykstra $elling Out


ELIZABETH DORAN LEAVES PASADENA PLAYHOUSE FOR SAN DIEGO

Pasadena Playhouse is losing the services of Executive Director Elizabeth Doran (pictured), who leaves at the end of April to take on the positions of president and CEO of San Diego Theatres, a nonprofit public benefit corporation that overseas the 3,000-seat Civic Theatre and the historic Balboa Theatre. Aside from announcing Doran’s departure, Playhouse Board Chairman David DiCristofaro revealed that General Manager/Production Manager Joe Witt and Director of Finance Meredith Min will oversee Pasadena Playhouse on an interim basis together with Artistic Director Sheldon Epps.


AHMANSON REVEALS 49TH SEASON

Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre launches its four-show 2015–16 season with the national tour of a new staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 Tony winner, The Sound of Music, helmed by Jack O’Brien (pictured), choreographed by Danny Mefford, opening Sept. 30. The Bridges of Madison County follows, featuring a book by Pulitzer winner Marsha Norman—based on the novel by Robert James Walker—music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, staged by Bartlett Sher, opening Dec. 9. The 2014 Tony-winning A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, wrought Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics), helmed by Darko Tresnjak, with choreography Peggy Hickey, opens March 23, 2016. Ahmanson’s season closes with a new staging of the 1997 Tony-winning Titanic the Musical, created by Maury Weston (music and lyrics) and Peter Stone (book), helmed by Thom Southerland, opening May 18, 2016.


PREMIERES

Odyssey Theatre in West LA hosts the West Coast premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby—“exploring the gaps between generations, movements, and the effect that absent fathers have on their young daughters”—starring Nadège August, Chris Gardner, and John Wesley, helmed by Jeffrey Hayden, opening April 18.

   My Child: Mothers of War—a collection of monologues, chronicling true stories of mothers whose lives were radically changed when their sons and daughters were sent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—based on the documentary by Angeliki Giannakopoulos, starring Frances Fisher, Melina Kanakaredes, Mimi Rogers, and Jean Smart (pictured), debuts at The Hudson Backstage Theatre, opening April 26 (Sundays only through May 31).

   Highways Performance Space and Moon Mile Run collaborate in the premiere of Bang Bang by Michael Kearns (pictured)—“weaving a battered, shredded tapestry of characters who face the consequences of what happens when the trigger is pulled”—helmed by Mark Bringelson, opening April 10 at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica.


SOLO TURNS

Writer-performer Melanie Maras (pictured) premieres Red Flag—a black comedy about what happens when a girl with baby fever gets a bad boyfriend—helmed by Kate Sullivan, opening April 3 at Lost Studio Theatre in Hollywood adjacent.

   Over at Santa Monica Playhouse, Alyson Renaldo premieres her solo work, Virgin—chronicling “a woman’s abrupt growth and maturity when she examines her relationship to God, sex, purity, and love”—helmed by Chris DeCarlo, opening March 28.

   Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks hosts HBO Def Poet—playwright Brian Dykstra (pictured above) in his solo comedy, Brian Dykstra $elling Out—“an impassioned examination of the corrupting influence of money and the pursuit of happiness”—helmed by Margarett Perry, one performance only, on April 3.


THE THING IS...

“I play an artist who is at the height of his career, the crux between art and business. Now I need to maintain it, to profit from it. Unfortunately, there is this weird thing that we men do when we find we are at a crossroads in our lives. We look to what used to be familiar and think that maybe this will lead us back to the lost youth we used to have, the innocence that is no longer there. The character I play is hoping that will happen, that he will be able to spark some dormant emotion and regain his original artistic inspiration. It is a trap, and my character falls into it 100 percent.”
—Jason Weiss (pictured with Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, photo by Ed Krieger) plays Jonathan, a superstar artist, in Donald Margulies’s Sight Unseen, opening March 14 at The Lounge Theatre in Hollywood.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY


La Mama Hollywood’s 1976 production of Skyjack ’76: Entebbe

In the early 1960s, a group of New York¬–based playwrights—Lanford Wilson, Robert Patrick, Harvey Fierstein, Doric Wilson, and others—launch the highly experimental and revolutionary off-Off-Broadway theater scene in such commercial establishments as Caffe Cino (founded by Joe Cino) and Café LaMaMa (founded by Ellen Stewart and Paul Foster). In 1973, Patrick moves to LA to help found LaMaMa Hollywood, along with artistic director—actor Michelle Van Hessen. Their debut production is an ensemble piece, How I Came to Be Here Tonight, performed in shabby El Cento Theatre. The company moves out when El Centro’s roof collapses.

   La Mama Hollywood moves to a small space at 1276 N. Van Ness Ave. but cannot establish the same artistic camaraderie as its East Coast counterparts. In 1975, Patrick flees LA, commenting in New York Magazine, “Hollywood people had a different frame of mind than they did in New York. La Mama Hollywood transmuted into a lot of hungry actors who wanted to do William Inge one-acts as auditions for The Waltons.”

   But in 1976, La Mama Hollywood scores its first critical success with Danny Goldman’s Skyjack ’76: Entebbe, scoring a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for direction. Also notable is the company’s premiere of Joan Schenker’s Cabin Fever.

   Over the next few years, La Mama Hollywood struggles to maintain a viable ensemble, despite the valiant efforts of actress Jacque Lynn Colton, who takes over leadership. In a memoir, actor Vinny Sorentino recalls performing in La Mama’s decidedly low-budget productions of The Poor Little Match Girl and LA Confidential. By 1983, the company is no longer operating out of the Van Ness Avenue space and co-produces Edward Sheldon’s The Jest at Joey Harris Theatre in Santa Monica. By 1984, La Mama Hollywood ceases to exist.

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).
 

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NEW THIS WEEK

* Theater review of Trevor, The English Bride, The Other Place, Switzerland

COMING NEXT....

* Reviews of Cinderella, Trevor, The Curious Savage, Mame, and more
 

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