Arts In LA

by Julio Martinez, March 27, 2015

The finale of APLA’s 2014 STAGE production
Chris Kane


This year’s Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE), To Broadway, From Hollywood…With Love, takes place May 9 at Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, with a mandate to raise funds for the ongoing outreach of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). Co-creator David Galligan directs, Brad Ellis serves as musical director.

   To date, artists scheduled to perform include Obba Babatunde, Adrienne Baron, Mary Jo Catlett, Carole Cook, James Darren, Loretta Devine, Nancy Dussault, David Engel, Julie Garnye, Thea Gill, Jason Graae, Danny Gurwin, Gregory Harrison, Sally Kellerman, Jon Maher, Melissa Manchester, Pat Marshall, James C. Mulligan, Patricia Morison, Robert Morse (pictured), Jake Simpson, Sally Struthers, Donna Theodore, Lisa Vroman, and Adam Wylie. Begun in 1984, STAGE is the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world.


2Cents’s Acting Out INK Fest gathers 100 artists for a three-day event to celebrate the female playwright—19 distaff scripters, 21 plays, 19 directors, 52 actors—running April 17–19 at the Hudson Theatre complex in Hollywood. Founded in 2012, 2Cents is fiscally partnered with Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project.


South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa offers its fifth annual Studio SCR series, featuring three diverse works, performed in 94-seat Nicholas Studio, beginning with BIG SHOT: A.K.A This Is Not the Godfather, a vaudevillian theatrical collage inspired by The Godfather films and novel, created by Theatre Movement Bazaar, helmed and choreographed by Tina Kronis with text by Richard Alger, April 22–May 3.

   How to Be a Rock Critic, based on the writing of legendary music critic Lester Bangs, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, performed by Jensen, helmed by Blank, plays June 11–14, a co-production with Center Theatre Group.

   Studio SCR’s series closes with Kikiricaja: Una Historia De Payasos (“A History of Clowns”), by Miguel Ángel Garrido Ramón, directed by Raymundo Garduño, and performed by Immigrantes Teatro of Tijuana (pictured), June 18–21, presented in association with La Jolla Playhouse.


Sacred Fools Theater Company in Hollywood looks to 2017 when crushing debt and rampant unemployment force the United States to sell Florida to China for $5 trillion. The only thing standing in the way is the South Florida Christian Militia, which is leading a resistance insurgency in the Everglades. The darkly comedic allegory, Occupation, by Ken Ferrigni, opens April 3.

   In West LA, Odyssey Theatre hosts the world premiere of 63 Trillion, by John Bunzel (pictured)—a dark comedy focusing on the predatory nature of high finance—helmed by Steve Zuckerman, produced by The New American Theatre, opening April 25.


Colony Theatre in Burbank offers its final production of its 40th anniversary season, the LA debut of Words by Ira Gershwin—an evening of music and theater infused with the famed lyricist’s insights and tales of his legendary collaborations—scripted by Joseph Vass, staged by David Ellenstein (pictured), music direction by Kevin Toney, opening April 18.

   Echo Theater Company continues its 2015 season with two LA premieres opening on April 25. Row After Row, by Jessica Dickey, and A Small Fire, by Adam Bock will run in repertory at Atwater Village Theatre. Row After Row—a “dark comedy about choosing one’s cause and finding the courage to embrace it”—helmed by Tara Karsian, opens at 5pm. A Small Fire—focusing on “the beauty and complexity of enduring relationships”—helmed by Alana Dietze, opens at 8pm. The two plays will continue to run in tandem every weekend through May 31.

  The Theatre @ Boston Court presents the West Coast debut of My Barking Dog—“an exploration of the lengths to which our everyday lives have disconnected us from nature”—scripted by Eric Coble, featuring Michelle Azar (pictured) and Ed Martin, helmed by Michael Michetti, opening April 25.

   In Long Beach, International City Theatre presents the premiere of Abigail/1702 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, exploring what might have come next for the real-life Puritan villainess Abigail Williams, following the tragic events chronicled in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It stars Jennifer Cannon as Abigail, is helmed by ICT artistic director caryn desai, and opens May 1.


Grove Theater Center in Burbank hosts Carney Magic, a theatrical performance piece created by sleight-of-hand artist John Carney (pictured)—leading the audience “through an exploration of the importance of wonder and imagination in our lives,” opening April 4.

   Music producer Hal Willner celebrates the 60th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 epic poem, “Howl!,” April 7, at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown LA. This event, the proceeds of which will benefit the David Lynch Foundation, will feature performances and appearances by Chris Parnell, Eric Mingus, Kevin Drew, Will Forte, Andy Kim, Courtney Love, Van Dyke Parks, Amy Poehler, Tim Robbins, Lori Singer, Chloe Webb, and Lucinda Williams, plus surprise special guests.

   The Road Theatre Company in NoHo extends the LA premiere run of Sharr White’s The Other Place—starring Taylor Gilbert and Sam Anderson, helmed by Andre Barron—through April 26 at The Road on Magnolia, the company’s second performance space, located in NoHo Senior Arts Colony.


Dancer–choreographer Joey Harris is born in Windsor, Ontario, in 1927. After studies in Canada and New York, Harris (pictured, photo by Maurice Seymour) performs as principal dancer with major ballet companies in the U.S. and Europe. Segueing into choreography in the early 1950s, he stages the dance numbers for the 1955 Off-Broadway production of Cole Porter’s Out of This World. During this time, Harris also co-founds Montreal Theatre Ballet.

   In the early 1960s, he moves to Los Angeles to choreograph a new variety TV show called Shower of Stars. Harris stays on in LA, opening up The Joey Harris Studio in Santa Monica. In 1971, he creates a dance/theater ensemble called The Group, touring throughout Southern California and renaming his own space The Joey Harris Theatre.

   In 1975, Harris is asked to create a company to perform under the auspices of Theatre Arts Program/LA, one of five companies operating under a grant from the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA), administered the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Harris not only utilizes his theater as a rehearsal and performance space but also allows other TAPLA companies to use it as a performance outlet. TAPLA ends in 1979 and Harris actively encourages outside dance and theater ensembles to use his theater.

   In 1982, Harris is approached by John Drew Barrymore to produce The Jest, based on Sem Benelli’s La Cenne delle Beffe, adapted by Edward Sheldon—a play that had premiered on Broadway in 1919, starring his uncle Lionel Barrymore. John Drew’s father, John Barrymore, had starred in the original French production. The Jest opens in July 1983, staged by Kenneth Koch, co-produced by John Drew Barrymore and La Mama Hollywood.

   In 1984, Joey Harris Theatre houses the Donald Freed/Geoffrey Forward one-man play, Will, starring Forward, helmed by Freed. By the ’90s, Harris’s space is no longer utilized as a performance venue. Harris retires to Palm Springs. He dies on March 30, 2014, at age 87.

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).
Guest Essay

On Being an Actors
Equity Member in Los Angeles

by Travis Michael Holder

Courtesy of Hudson Theatres

A candidate in New York for Actors Equity’s national council asked on the 7,000-member-strong Pro-99 Facebook page Tuesday if anyone could explain, “for those members working exclusively in 99-Seat theater,” what we see as the benefit of our Equity membership. “In other words,” he seems to sincerely ask, “what’s the most important thing the union provides to you while working in 99-Seat houses?
   First of all, I don’t think I know any AEA members whose goal is to work exclusively in 99-Seat shows. To the contrary, nothing would be finer than to be paid full Equity wages for a project. But simply, there is very little AEA contract work in LA. Of the handful of union houses here, most are enough out of town where some of us can’t or don’t want to travel for limited wage compensation, and the bigger houses mostly cast outside of Los Angeles. Case in point is the current Switzerland at the Geffen, with both high-profile actors not only cast in New York but rehearsed there.
   Aside from all that well-worn yet sincere stuff about keeping our instruments in tune while waiting for film and TV auditions, and of having the honor of doing work that could make a difference in our screwed-up society despite the lack of financial reward, there’s always something else looming around the stage doors of 99-Seat theater productions in LA: the wee-tiny chance that a successful 99-Seat show will make the jump to an Equity contract, something that is in the talking stages right now with a project I was part of last summer. If it transfers to an Equity house, that alone would be worth the dues I’ve paid over the years to keep myself currently available for potential though rare union work. And of course, most of us deluded artists are also dreamers. Who knows? I’ve only been acting for 61 years or so—maybe one day I could still be the oldest new discovery since Fayvesh Finkel.

Personally, there are a lot of factors that keep me away from more union contracts, including taking care of my partner of 45-plus years, whom I’m desperately trying to keep living at home for as long as he can while the degenerative ravages of Alzheimer’s make him disappear ever-so-slowly before my eyes. Then there is the fact that I have found great pleasure in teaching acting during the last five years at New York Film Academy Hollywood, coming to realize it’s a fine way I can pass on (before I pass on) the knowledge I have gained over the past six decades to a “new stand of cotton,” as Tennessee would say. Then selfishly and with decidedly more mercenary thinking on my part, I have also discovered, working quite regularly these days as a personal coach for the film community, that one gig holding the hand of a spoiled, neurotic superstar pays more in an hour than I could make in a week on a LORT-B contract in some suburban enclave with a wealth of fast-food eateries and a Super 8 Motel along the main highway.
   Keeping this in mind, I have turned down my share of AEA contract offers and auditions since Victor’s illness reared its unfortunate head and since the beginning of my latter-day teaching career. This has honestly left me very sad I am unable to spend my usual springs in New Orleans during the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival and enjoy my own fiercely held apartment while looking for work in New York—a city where, by the way, I have seen nowhere near the cutting-edge and courageously bold work on small stages over the years that I see regularly in the poor, maligned, reclaimed-desert wasteland known as Los Angeles. And over the past decade, I have done 15 plays on the West Coast—13 as 99-Seat productions and two on Equity contracts. Of the 13 small-theater experiences, 12 were incredible rich and rewarding and I wouldn’t have traded my time in them for anything—and the 13th was, shall we at least say, great fun, even if I did warn friends not to come. The two AEA contract jobs were a misery to live through and, honestly, both were at least partially made miserable because of the rigidity, nastiness, and dysfunctional “assistance” and decision-making of the West Coast office.

A few years ago, I was offered a fairly nicely sized role in a film shooting 10 to 12 weeks in Alaska at a very impressive rate, even if the role could have been played by any similarly odd-looking automaton. At the same time, I was offered a chance to play the dying Brian in The Shadow Box in a Culver City 33-seat space for $9 a show. I turned down the film and took the play, losing a longtime agent over the decision. You see, I was then a four-time survivor of cancer (and at this point in time, a five-timer), and I knew what I wanted more than anything was to say the words Michael Cristofer won a Pulitzer Prize for creating. I had previously played Mark at age 28 and Joe in my mid-30s, the latter of which became another controversial decision for me, as during the final gasps of rehearsals, I received my third cancer diagnosis and was told I had about a 40 percent chance of survival, but only if I went immediately into surgery.
   Again, I chose the play. We were scheduled to run four or five weeks, so I knew, although I was taking a chance with my life, I would get more personal healing and comfort from saying Joe’s words and submerging myself in Joe’s situation than from focusing on my own crap. Instead of a few weeks, however, we played several months. We closed on a Sunday and I went into surgery at 6:30 the following morning. The tumor was still there to be excised but, despite my doctors’ dire warnings of gloom and destruction, had not grown or spread in any way.

Courtesy Third Street Theatre

   Art heals. I believe with all my heart art healed me then and continues to do so today. For AEA to try to destroy that outlet for me is unacceptable. I am still unwilling to give up my passion to somehow change the world, drip by torturous drip, through whatever talent I have been given. That should be my decision, not the decision of some little miserable worm sitting in a little cubicle at the Equity office. Several theaters that gave me that unique chance to heal and grow and communicate the human condition to others would be totally wiped out if Equity barrels through with this dastardly proposal, just because it’s frustrated it cannot control the unstoppably passionate intimate theater scene in Los Angeles. If I need to one day soon chose them over what should be the sheltering wings of the union I held dear for most of my life, there would be no contest whatsoever.

By the way, I currently have two pair of students, in two separate Scene Study classes at NYFA, working on scenes from The Shadow Box. The beat goes on.

March 2015


The following have generously supported
Fitzmaurice Voicework
with Lisa Pelikan
Fountain Theatre presents
  I and You
Opening April. 11



* Theater reviews of Pygmalion, The Curious Savage, Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, Thieves, Sight Unseen


* Reviews of Newsies, Anarchist, My Child, My Barking Dog, Tribute, Cats, and more

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