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Frost Nixon

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Peter Morgan’s 2006 play, Frost/Nixon, makes for a drama that is Shakespearian in its dimensional approach to character and psychological profundity. And it’s difficult to imagine a more mindful and gripping production of Frost/Nixon then the one now underway at Fullerton’s Maverick Theater.

Under Brian Newell’s textured, multimedia direction (Newell also, impressively, designed the set, lights, sound and video displays), this Frost/Nixon is not only a towering tragedy, rivaling Macbeth and King Lear in scope and emotional toll, it’s also a hypnotic lesson in U.S. History.

What’s more, the combination of Morgan’s script, Newell’s sensitive auteurship, and a grade-A performance by Joe Parrish of former President Richard M. Nixon, allows us to understand our 37th Commander in Chief in a manner that is cathartic; we actually feel compassion for Nixon – and this is an affective relief, in that it puts us on a track of not forgetting, but perhaps of forgiving. An old axiom states that to understand all is to forgive all. This staging of Frost/Nixon helps us to understand the mechanistic deceits and personality deficits of both Richard Nixon and David Frost.

While Parrish’s portrayal of Nixon provides the production’s brooding yang, David Herbelin’s interpretation of David Frost gives the show a touch of lighthearted yin – from his much ridiculed Italian loafers, which Nixon refers to as “effeminate,” to his well displayed ways as a 1970s playboy of the western world — Frost in every sense seems far below Nixon’s world-class league, even at a period of maximum disgrace in the former president’s life. After all, Frost’s biggest media accomplishment so far had been interviewing the Disco group The Bee Gees.

The details and divisions over Nixon’s arranging to appear on the televised interview series are outlined lucidly and with great dramatic impact here. Nixon’s motivation is to rehabilitate his besmirched reputation; as a British broadcast journalist, Frost’s incentive is to have first access to the much maligned ex-chief executive. With star talent-agent Swifty Lazar (a formidable Jason Sutton) working on Nixon’s behalf, $600,000 dollars is eventually offered to Nixon for his marathon grilling by Frost. Nixon accepts, and later suggests that he should have held out for more.

The lead-in to the show has vintage newsreels of the luminaries of network news from days gone by playing on three elevated screens.  People such as Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds are seen reporting updates as the President’s resignation date approaches. Brilliantly, the introduction of President Nixon given by on-camera newsman Smith is seamlessly woven into Parrish’s “televised” interpretation of Nixon’s final White House speech.

With handlers on each side of the interview chairs, Nixon makes it perfectly clear that he is contractually allowed to wipe his sweaty upper-lip with a handkerchief without the act being caught on-camera. What’s also on display is Nixon’s crafty avoidance of questions, particularly those concerning the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

Frost’s “team” insists that Nixon be hit with the hard questions. The surreptitious bombing of Cambodia, the folly of leadership during the Vietnam War and, of course, the crimes surrounding the scandal of Watergate (which Nixon and his people insist on being no more that a fraction of the interview time) all eventually come into the conversation, with both of these characters thrusting, parrying, and pivoting as adroitly as masters in a verbal fencing competition. When Nixon makes a liquor-lubricated telephone call to Frost in the wee hours on the eve of the last interview session, the game has been set and the stakes are sky-high.

Not only  is Frost/Nixon based on a true life encounter taken from the annals of  American politics, as well as from the well of popular culture, that encounter is theatricalized to the extent that it becomes high-art in the Maverick Theater: simultaneously emotional and enlightening. The verisimilitude in evidence in this staging of Frost/Nixon is due in no small part to a superb cast of players, which also includes Ben Green as Jim Reston; Mark Coyan as Jack Brennan; Robert Dean Nunez as John Birt; Hannah Butcher (alternating with Kelsie Blackwell) as Caroline Cushing; Patrick Beltran as Manolo Sanchez; and Sara Kerr as Evonne Goolagong.

Frost/Nixon continues at The Maverick Theater – 110 East Walnut Avenue, Fullerton – through May 27. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with a 4 p.m. matinee on Sundays. For reservations, dial (714) 526 – 7070. For online ticketing and further information, visit



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.”


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.