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Vivien

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What British actress received two Academy Awards for portraying belles of the American south?

Of course, there’s only one performer in the history of cinema to have achieved such a distinction; that is the singular and sensational Vivien Leigh.

Leigh won the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara in the movie masterwork, Gone With the Wind, while only in her mid-twenties; she also received her first Academy Award for her pitch-perfect portrayal of the vexing Scarlett. Nearly two-decades later, Leigh made the part of Blanche DuBois—from Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire—her own, taking home her second Best Actress Oscar for her film characterization of that delicate and despairing post-antebellum interloper.

Though Leigh died almost a half-a-century ago, her sweetly complex beauty seems somehow ageless. Her performances live on in film and acting classes, art house revivals, and movie channels in a manner that still makes her artistry relevant to students, scholars, and audiences of all levels.

Now, Southern California theatergoers have an opportunity to get a glimpse of Vivien Leigh in all her marvelousness and madness. The So Cal premiere of Rick Foster’s bio-play, Vivien (at L.A.’s Rogue Theatre) is a solo-show, wherein we see soap opera star Judith Chapman (“The Young and the Restless”) project an uncanny likeness to the lovely-in-appearance Leigh. In ninety minutes we experience a whirlwind performance by Chapman who brings life, if not light, to the turbulent psyche of this true-life drama queen.

With unpredictable mood swings, insatiable addictions, and grand artistic disappointments, Leigh, as assayed by Chapman, is the poster-person for the illusive link between creativity and insanity. Even amidst a career full of accolades, to her everlasting regret, Leigh never had the chance to have one of her Shakespearian roles recorded on film, though her one-time husband Lawrence Olivier had the influence to make it happen. While we may not gain a deep understanding Leigh’s mania or depression—which is partly due to Foster’s flawed script (cluttered with pet-name references, many of which are mysteriously indecipherable)—we do sense the wrenching agony that seems to have fed Leigh’s artistry.

Under Elina de Santos’ otherwise straightforward direction, one critical element of this staging is under- tended: acoustical delivery. Though the venue where the production unfolds is a sub-99 seat theater, the cavernous design of the Pico Boulevard space swallows much of Chapman’s uttered discourse. Though we follow and admire Chapman’s physical fluidity, which ranges from  ballerina-like moves to reenactments of Leigh’s seizure-inducing electroshock therapy, we are at a loss when it comes to fully grasping Foster’s ill-paced narrative.

Production efforts, such as Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’ scenic design, Leigh Allen’s lighting, and Christopher Moscatiellos’ soundscape (notwithstanding Chapman’s occasional inaudibility) fortify notions of time, place, and emotional space. Vivien as a production whole, however, is only for fans of the formidable Judith Chapman and/or die-hard devotees of Vivien Leigh.

Vivien” continues through September 4, at the Rogue Theatre—housed in Theatre/Theater, 5041 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 3 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations, dial (855) 585 – 5185. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.roguemachinetheatre.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.