Arts In LA
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, September 11, 2014



The Actors’ Gang production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

CTG’S 2015 SEASON AT MARK TAPER FORUM

Center Theatre Group launches its 48th season at Mark Taper Forum with a revival of Arthur Miller’s 1968 Tony-nominated The Price, a sojourn within a family’s jaundiced history, starring Kate Burton and Alan Mandel, helmed by Garry Hynes, opening Feb. 22, 2015. The complete cast is TBA.

   Paul Oakley Stovell’s Immediate Family—“a biting new comedy that explores evolving ideas of marriage and family”—helmed by Phylicia Rashad (pictured)—will make its Los Angeles debut at the Taper on May 3, 2015.

   For the summer, the Taper offers Bent, Martin Sherman’s 1979 Tony-nominated journey into the lives of gay men struggling to survive in 1930s Nazi Germany, staged by Moisés Kaufman (pictured), opening July 26, 2015.

   The season continues with West Coast debut of Appropriate, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins—focusing on the disturbing revelations that occur when estranged family members convene in Arkansas to settle the patriarch’s estate—helmed by Obie winner Eric Ting, opening Oct. 4, 2015.

   Season closer The Christians, by Lucas Hnath, spotlights one pastor’s personal revelation that “shakes the church’s very foundation with a message that challenges one of the basic tenets of his ministry,” helmed by Obie winner Lee Waters, opening Dec. 13. Waters, currently directing Marjorie Prime at the Taper, plans to stage this West Coast debut work as a church service, using a choir culled from local choral groups.


THE ACTORS’ GANG TAKES ITS ‘DREAM’ TO OZ ARTS IN NASHVILLE

Culver City–based The Actors’ Gang has ventured far from its Ivy Substation home, launching OZ Arts Nashville’s 2014–15 season with the Gang’s acclaimed staging of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, helmed by its founder and artistic director, Tim Robbins, Sept. 12 and 13. This summer, Robbins’s troupe performed this production in Beijing, Shanghai, and the Spoleto Festival in Italy. While in Nashville, the troupe will also bring Actors’ Gang Prison Project to inmates of the Charles Bass Correctional Facility in a series of rehabilitation-theater workshops. The company moves on to a brief sojourn at Porto Alegre Festival in Brazil, Sept. 19–21.


JOSEFINA LOPEZ FOUNDS SPANISH-LANGUAGE TEATRO PARA TODOS

Playwright-director Josefina Lopez (pictured, photo by Shane Sato), founding artistic director of Real Women Have Curves Studio and Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, is establishing a new theatre company, Teatro Para Todos (Theatre for All), “whose mission will be to produce and present theatrical fare in the Spanish language, serving not only our local community but all Angelinos.” To begin the process, Lopez has retained voiceover artist Raul Romero, who will lead a 14-week theater-acting workshop in Spanish, Sept. 20–Dec. 20 at Real Women Have Curves Studio.


PREMIERES



West Hollywood’s Third Street Theatre, in association with Oddbird Theatricals, is premiering a fully staged production of Bronies: The Musical (pictured)—introduced at 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival—wrought by Joe Greene (music) and Heidi Powers and Tom Moore (book and lyrics), choreographed by John Todd, musical direction by Jennifer Lin, helmed by Richard Israel, opening Sept. 27. Bronies “explores the phenomenon of fandom through the lens of pony fans—including all the passion, the awkwardness, the creativity, and the community it can inspire.”

   Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood presents the West Coast debut of Banshee by Brian C. Petti—exploring the nature of familial relationships and the struggle to overcome one’s personal demons—helmed by James R. Carey, opening Oct. 3.

   Also having a West Coast premiere is Completeness by Itamar Moses, helmed by Matt Pfeiffer (pictured)—co-produced by VS. Theatre Company and Firefly Theater and Films—opening Nov. 7 at VS. Theatre on Pico Boulevard. Newly revised since its 2011 debut at New York’s Playwrights Horizons, this romantic comedy about science nerds attempting to find and solve the variables in their relationship features Steven Klein, Emily Swallow, Nicole Erb, and Rob Nagle (pictured).


AROUND TOWN

Vocally sumptuous Eileen Barnett (pictured) (Broadway productions of Nine and Company) morphs into the real-life persona of relentlessly unmusical socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (1868–1944)—dubbed “the caterwauling countess” and “the first lady of the sliding scale”—in Peter Quilter’s 2005 comedic bio, Glorius!, based on Jenkins’s life and career as a self-deluded opera diva, helmed by Richard Israel, opening Oct. 10 at International City Theatre in Long Beach.

   Antaeus Company in NoHo closes out its 2014 season of “modern classics” with a revival of Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White, scripted in 1962 by Alice Childress, helmed by Gregg T. Daniel—recounting the dilemma confronting Julia and Herman, two people in love and desiring to be married, but held apart by society’s mores and laws prohibiting interracial marriage in 1918, opening Oct. 18.


THE THING IS...

“The casting process varies from season to season. We have a resident company and we have a number of guest artists who come in. I have been a resident member since the company was founded in 1992. At times guest artists who have performed with us for a while will become company members. We have guest directors who come in that know the people they want to cast. Others want to audition the actors. This season we have two wonderful guest directors who have worked with us before, Michael Michetti and Bart DeLorenzo. We are a repertory company, and quite often an actor will be working in more than one show. In the fall part of this season, I am playing Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest, and I’ll be Mrs. Cratchit in our holiday production of A Christmas Carol. Then after Carol, we will be launching into the spring portion of our season. At this point I don’t know what I’ll be doing in those plays. Right now I am concentrating on becoming the very proper Miss Prism. I have never done The Importance of Being Earnest before. Of course, Miss Prism is very proper and judgmental, but there is a very real human being underneath all those acquired manners, and it is my responsibility to always be in touch with that very real person that she is. It has been such a joy working on this character that Oscar Wilde has so ingeniously created. We are at that point in the rehearsal process where all the characters on stage need to be making all those necessary connections with one another.”
Jill Hill is a resident artist at A Noise Within, soon to launch its 2014–15 season.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY...



Photo courtesy Edwin Goei/OC Register

B
y the 1800s, the citizens of the small agricultural community of Tustin—founded in 1868 by carriage maker Columbus Tustin and his partner Nelson Stafford—are prosperous enough to seek entertainment outlets, relying mostly on the traveling fare at nearby Santa Ana Opera House. By 1900, that opera house is no more, and Tustin residents must enjoy the student output from the drama department of Tustin High School.

   But at the end of World War II, returning GI and former student Norman Mennes, Tustin High drama teacher May Rose Bonum, and friends Florence and Harold Turney convince the town’s Board of Education to turn Tustin High’s well-equipped stage into a professional summer stock theater, named Holiday Stage, opening in June 1947. The three-show opening season—State of the Union, Petticoat Fever (starring Broadway actor Oliver Cliff) and The Royal Family—flops badly. Determined to mount a summer season in 1948, Bonum convinces Hollywood star Sterling Holloway (pictured) to appear in Three Men on a Horse. It is a huge hit.

   Holiday keeps the film star format, mounting the premiere of Time ’n Todd, starring Rhonda Fleming and James Ellison, directed by Sam Levene. Other tinseltown notables to grace Holiday’s stage include Mabel Albertson, George Reeves, and John Alvin. Despite its success, Holiday Stage quits performances at Tustin High after the 1949 season.

   In 1952, Bonum attempts to resurrect Holiday Stage as a theater-in-the-round venue, utilizing the auditorium of Tustin Grammar School, enlisting Hollywood actor Ray Agayahan to direct. She even marries him. Despite a series of successful productions, the space fails to connect with local theatergoers and closes in 1954.

   Tustin’s next successful foray into live theater occurs when Midwest theater proprietor Elizabeth Howard relocates to Orange County, purchases the unsuccessful movie house Tustin Theater, and creates Elizabeth Howard’s Curtain Call Theater (pictured, above), opening Oct. 6, 1980, with Hello, Dolly!.

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

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COMING NEXT....

   * Theater reviews of Spring Awakening,  The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, Orphans, Run for Your Wife, Good People, Maple & Vine, The Full Monty, Drood, Marjorie Prime, and more
 

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