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If You Want to Know What's Wrong with Society, Go See Quack

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Anybody remember in the comic Pogo when he said, “We have identified the enemy and it is us”? Now playwright Eliza Elliott skewers our celebrity culture and its empty totums in Quack, where we come face-to-face with our own culpability in creating them. CTG Associate Artistic Director Neel Keeler helmed this fast-moving production, which boasts a top-notch cast beginning with Dan Bucatensky as Dr. Irving Baer, a “Dr. Phil” like TV celebrity.

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Thank Heavens for Western Playwrights

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Two plays are presently showing in tandem at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, and they are the sort of sit-up-and-take-notice plays we should be proud to have coming out of Southern California.  Members Only by Oliver Mayer offers us less a play than a world.  It continues the story of Pedro Quinn, who killed an opponent in the ring in Blade to the Heat, turning the entire boxing world against him.  Now a retired champion feeling the effects of all his fights, he has to confront his past in order to move forward.

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Rubicon Brings Broadway to the Beach for Return to the Forbidden Planet

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It’s back, and it’s better than ever!  The Rubicon Theatre Company reprises its 2016 hit, Return to The Forbidden Planet, to celebrate its 20th year, headed by the award-winning director, Kirby Ward.  The cast is stellar, including a digital guest appearance by Fred Willard; the set is appropriately configured to resemble the STAR TREK cockpit, with costumes reminiscent of the show.

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ANW Continues Exploration of the late 20th Century Classic

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A Noise Within’s co-Artistic Director, Geoff Elliott, brings life to the late 20th Century classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at a time when our social collective seems to reflect the anxiety of an unhinged ruler ricocheting the ship of state toward an uncertain future.  In 1967 when it was first produced, Tom Stoppard’s play reflected much the same discontent emerging from the existential disquiet of a new youthful movement.

 

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The Secret in the Wings

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The Children’s and Household Tales was the original title that Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm bestowed upon the 1812 publication of their collection of fairytales, which is now known as the Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  And they are grim tales, indeed. But what do the Grimm stories from the 19th century have to do with Italo Calvino’s earthy 20th century tall tales? The connection or, rather, the common denominator in these century-separate narratives is the modern-day American playwright and opera director Mary Zimmerman, best known for her Tony Award- winning rehash of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

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Vs. Theatre Aims for Steady as You Go

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Artistic Director, Johnny Clark wants Cal in Camo, the present production, to kick off a new beginning for Vs. Theatre in 2019. “We are very proud to close out the calendar year with this play,” he said. “I hope this is the last production that we say [to our audience], ‘We don’t know what comes next.’” After a string of successful World, West Coast, and LA premieres, Clark wants to be able to declare a season with at least two productions.

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One Performance, Three Stories at Independent Shakespeare Company

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Kalean Ung has unique stories to tell: three of them to be exact. Of Cambodian and Jewish extraction, Ung grew up immersed in one world, but curious about her father’s origins. The result is a compendium of story telling, music, and recitation.  With the help of Director Marina McClure, Ung has shaped her performance as a memoir in 13 chapters, interweaving the discovery of her Cambodian heritage, her father’s migration and ascent in the world of symphonic music, and the horrific effects of the Khmer Rouge on his extended family in Cambodia.

 

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Assassins

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The theatrical conceit is as morbid as it is comical and, ultimately, unnerving. The setting is a carnival shooting gallery (nicely evoked through David Scaglione’s scenic design and the lighting motif devised by Jesse Bosworth). With sixteen players on stage (many in multiple roles), we meet the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth — exquisitely embodied by Derek Rubaino —  and come to an understanding of the rebellious intentions that facilitate the murder of Mr. Lincoln, through the odious ode, "The Ballad Of Booth."

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Did The Tempest Conjure Up the Latest Storm at Brand Library Park

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It was biting cold when I came to Brand Park to catch The Tempest, my favorite Shakespeare comedy.  But that has been the least of the beleaguered production’s worries.  Last weekend saw at least one rained-out performance, and everyone hopes Sunday’s winds will die down for their last three shows this weekend.

In The Tempest Shakespeare reputedly ripped his story from the headlines about a ship-wreck of an English mercantile ship in or near Barbados.  His story is fanciful.  Having been deposed in a coup, Prospero, the rightful Duke (played by Jennipher Lewis), was exiled with an infant daughter.  Now a budding teen, Miranda (Caitlin Stoodley), has never seen a “comely” man until Prince Ferdinand (Nick Gallagher) washes ashore, along with an assortment of  comic crew members.  The only other inhabitants – Caliban (also Nick Gallagher), a grotesque monster enslaved by Prospero, and Ariel (played variously by the cast) – make up the rest of the characters. Susannah Snowden-Ifft and Julia Stier have giddy fun and the clowns Stephano and Trinculo. Prospero’s magic and several kegs of grog play havoc until at last, all is sorted out.

In keeping with Shakespeare’s conception providing vignettes that we imagine take place at various parts of the island, director Rebecca Lynne has demarked her stage against a tree down the slope from Brand Library; their only props consist of a piece of sail and a trunk. Generally, Dean Productions performances at Brand have devised makeshift stages for their casts of skilled actors. These performers are every bit as engaging, but a series of unfortunate casting decisions mar Shakespeare’s traditional rom-com, said to be the last of his completed works.

The Dean Production Company’s trademark interactive fun really needs an active and engaged audience to work. Their important mission helping kids with cancer also depends on the support of their community. However, the timing of performing this balmy play outside in October is unfortunate. The adjacent library, housing a perfectly suitable auditorium and stage, demands financing for after-hours security.  Too bad Glendale is too chintzy to allow for this service.

The Tempest plays at 7:30 pm through this weekend at Brand Park, 1601 W. Mountain Ave., Glendale, CA 91201.  The event is free. Go to www.deanproductionstheatre.com for reservations, but walk-ins are welcome.

 

42nd Street

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3-D Theatricals' 10th anniversary season kicks off with a visually appealing version of the perennial favorite, 42nd Street. Originally directed and choreographed by Gower Champion in 1980, it won the Tony for Best Musical and has been an audience favorite ever since. "We hadn't done a tap show in far too long," Artistic Director T. J. Dawson announced, and that led to the company's decision to choose this show for the opening of its 2018-2019 season.

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Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.