Arts In LA
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, October 1, 2014



Joy Brunson and Karan Kendrick in the Colony Theatre production of What I Learned in Paris
Photo by Michael Lamont

‘WATERFALL’ BEGINS PRE-BROADWAY RUN AT PASADENA PLAYHOUSE IN JUNE

As the finale to its 2014–15 season, Pasadena Playhouse, in collaboration with Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, hosts the premiere of Waterfall—based on the 1930s romantic Thai novel Behind the Painting by Sriburapha—wrought by a collaboration of international talents, including Tony-winner Richard Maltby Jr. (music) and Oscar-winner David Shire (book and lyrics), helmed by Thailand’s Tak Viravan, choreographed by Dan Knechtges, opening June 7, 2015. The production subsequently moves to 5th Avenue Theatre (fall 2015), aiming for a Broadway debut in 2016.

   Waterfall marks the American stage debut of Thai superstar Bie Sukrit Wisetkaew (pictured above), who performed in this winter’s earlier developmental workshop of the show in New York, which included Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid). Boggess is not involved in the production coming to Pasadena.

   Underscoring the goals of this season, Playhouse Executive Director Elizabeth Dorn commented, “As the State Theater of California, we are proud to reflect and build bridges between the many diverse communities that represent our great state. This new musical will round out a season of shows that celebrates and amplifies this vision. Waterfall will provide audiences with a night of powerful, epic entertainment!” Pasadena Playhouse’s complete 2014–15 season is still to be announced.


EAT, DRINK, AND BE LITERATE!

The New Short Fiction Series—“an exciting hybrid of literary and theatrical arts, nationally acknowledged for promoting the literature of West Coast writers”—reveals its 19th season 2015 lineup at The Federal Bar in NoHo. Led by spoken word guru Sally Shore (pictured), the year’s fare includes Mary Kuryla’s Animal Control and other stories (Jan. 11); Kate Kaplan’s Empty Bed Blues and other stories (Feb. 9); Bronwyn Maudlin’s Democracy and other stories (March 9); Kurt Taylor’s Welcome to the Moon and other stories (April 12); 12th Annual Emerging Voices Group Show (May 10); Denise Lindgren’s Flicks (June 14); Sandy Yang’s How to Tell (July, TBA); Kurt Taylor’s Horsepower and other stories (Aug. 9); Kristien FitzPatrick’s Center of Population (Sept. 20); 4th Annual Northern Writes (Oct. 11, 2015); and Jacqueline McKinley’s The Christmas Bitch and other stories (Nov. 8, 2015).


PREMIERES

Ever-prolific Henry Jaglom premieres Train to Zakopane—“a true story of love and hate”—directed by Gary Imhoff, starring Tanna Frederick (pictured) and Mike Falkow, opening Oct. 24 at Edgemar Center for the Arts’s Main Stage in Santa Monica.

   Towne Street Theatre, in association with Stella Adler LA, presents the premiere of 1969—focusing on the volatile mood of the times and “a potentially deadly confrontation between a black revolutionary, a successful black businessman, and his socialite wife”—scripted by Barbara White Morgan, helmed by Kim Hamilton, opening Oct. 10 at Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood.

   Watts Village Theater Company offers the premiere of Michael Patrick Spillers’s family drama, Follow—chronicling the cathartic ramifications of a religious father who campaigns to block the “nontraditional marriage” of his estranged grown son—helmed by Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, opening Oct. 23, performed site-specifically at The Watts Coffee House in historic Mufundi Institute complex.


   Los Feliz District’s quite active performance cabaret Rockwell Table and Chairs presents another edition in its Unauthorized Musical Parody Series with the debut of Scream, scripted and helmed by Michael Gans and Richard Register, starring Sarah Hyland (pictured) of ABC’s Modern Family, performing one night only, Oct. 18.


AROUND TOWN

Santa Monica Playhouse revives its own 2004 musical adaptation of the French folk tale Beauty and the Beast, wrought by co-artistic directors Evelyn Rudie (music and book) and Chris DeCarlo (book) (pictured), helmed by DeCarlo, based on the original 1740s tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, opening Oct. 31.

   The Supernatural Project’s long-running Supernatural: The Play, created by the committee of Candace O. Kelley, Audrey Kelley, and Gilda Rogers, helmed by Kelley, is reaching out to Dec. 21 (Sundays only) at Chromolume Theatre on Washington Boulevard.

   Independent Shakespeare Co. honors that other Elizabethan era playwright celebrating a 450th birthday, presenting a new adaptation of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1564–93), helmed by artistic director Melissa Chalsma (pictured), opening Oct. 25 at Independent Studio in the Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex. The company also offers this tale, of a man who sells his soul to the devil, in two free performances at Westfield Century City, Nov. 1 and 2, in partnership with Westfield.

   Bootleg Theater on Beverly Boulevard hosts two evenings of FJ Faucet—the eight-member mainstage sketch comedy team from Hollywood’s iO West—helmed by Allison Bills, performing Oct. 2 and 4.

THE THING IS...

“This was a momentous time in our history. It is Atlanta, 1973 and there is a large community of African Americans who have been very politically and socially active for years. So, the question comes up, why was this the moment that a Black man, Maynard Jackson, was elected to be the first mayor of a major city in the United States? How did this all come together? This play actually deals with the lives of the people who worked diligently to get Jackson elected and begins after the votes have been tallied. I play Lena Jefferson, an election campaign worker who has been empowered by this election to go out and seek her own place in the sun. As she states, ‘I’m good at this stuff.’ Our playwright, Pearl Cleage, really empowers her characters to embody the possibilities now presenting themselves because of the success of this election. And Lena realizes very quickly there are emotional challenges the other members of the election team are now facing during the post election. She is sympathetic and wants to help; but in her heart, she just wants to get out of Atlanta unscathed and fly off to her new life in San Francisco. Actually, I began working as an actress in Atlanta and had the opportunity to play Lena in the 2012 premiere of this work in Atlanta. But that came at the exact time I had made the decision to move to Los Angeles. I auditioned for a show at the Colony, Breath & Imagination [2014 Best Actress in a Play Ovation nominated]. And then I got to be cast in the West Coast premiere of this play. I am truly blessed.”
Karan Kendrick (pictured) plays Lena Jefferson in the West Coast premiere of Pearl Cleage’s What I Learned in Paris, running at The Colony Theatre in Burbank through Oct. 5.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY

In 1972, former dancer–turned–wealthy performing arts philanthropist Judith Thomas Stark (pictured), and husband Milton R. Stark purchase defunct Stage Society Theater, located at 9014 Melrose Ave. in still-unincorporated West Hollywood.

   In the 1960s, Stage Society had produced successful productions of the mystery drama Uncle Marston starring Indus Arthur (1963), the 17th century satire The Rehearsal (1964), J.P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man starring Robert Hogan (1965), and Sydney Michael’s Dylan (1966).

   By 1971, Stage Society ceases productions. Stark renovates the space into Theatre Vanguard, “an experiment in the support and presentation of contemporary performance art,” opening in February 1973. Mainly supported by Judith Stark’s personal fortune, Theatre Vanguard underwrites the original works of modern dancers, contemporary composers, experimental filmmakers, avant garde live theater, and several one-person shows.

   At the end of the theater’s first year of operation, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle accord Theatre Vanguard the Margaret Harford Award for “supportive contribution to the experimental performing arts in Southern California.” In reporting this selection, Los Angeles Times theater critic Sylvie Drake notes that the Starks had initially “promised to provide the young and/or noncommercial artist with a place to air his work. They’ve more than lived up to it. In one year, the Vanguard has made itself indispensable.”

   Over the next five years, the Starks continue their support of the space while also petitioning for support from other granting agencies. Some funding is acquired from the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles County Music and Performing Arts Commission, but it is not enough to offset Vanguard’s rising operating costs. In 1978, the passage of Proposition 13 curbs property tax revenue, forcing the Starks to shut down Theatre Vanguard. At the closing, Judith Stark tells the Times, “We tried our best. I hope good will come out of it, and I plan to continue to work to help arts on a more realistic level.” Continuing to be an arts benefactor, Stark dies of a stroke on Dec. 1, 2005, at age 96.

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 reviews of The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, Choir Boy, The Full Monty, The Tempest, Spring Awakening, Marjorie Prime, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Cock


COMING NEXT....

   * Theater reviews of Jersey Boys, Good People, Maple & Vine, and more
 

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