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Leading Ladies

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Master farceur (and Harvard Law School Alum), Ken Ludwig directed the world premiere of his cross-dressing comedy, Leading Ladies, at Houston’s Alley Theatre. That was in October, 2004. Since then Ladies has traveled north, for stagings in Canada, and across-the-Atlantic (and translated into Czechoslovakian), for a production in Prague.

Now, under the ebullient direction of Richard Israel, an elegant mounting of Ladies has arrived at Long Beach’s International City Theatre, through July 1. For those familiar with Ludwig’s past plays – Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo, specifically – it’s no revelation to read that Ludwig’s broad, yet intricate, farces require actors of the utmost skill and talent to bring these tricky scripts to full fun-tation. Fortunately, this rare So Cal iteration of Leading Ladies has no lack of craftsmanship, among either its crew or cast. (Set design, Staci Walters; costuming, Kim DeShazo; lighting, Jeremy Pivnick; sound, Jason Mann.)


Referred to as a fusion of Some Like it Hot and Twelfth Night, the plotline of Ladies centers on two down-on-their-luck Shakespearian actors, Leo and Jack, circa 1952 (performing in a duo-ship that measures up to Abbott and Costello, Lewis and Martin, and – dare we say it? – Curtis and Lemmon), by the consummately comical David Engel and equally comedic John J. Joseph, respectively.

Leo and Jack are reduced to chewing-up Scenes from Shakespeare at the York, Pennsylvania Moose Lodge when they become privy to the fact that a nearby elderly lady, Florence (an eye-catching Katherine McKalip), is on the brink of death; what’s more, Florence has plans to leave her wealth to a couple of her British nephews. The pair of troubled thespians decides then to pass themselves off as the long-lost relatives. Complications arise, however, when Leo and Jack learn that the nephews, Max and Steve, are actually nicknames for nieces, Maxine and Stephanie.

Of course, amidst the confusion among characters and the gender-bending escapades on view, there are the obligatory love stories, the trysts, the misunderstandings, and the bawdy innuendos. But what keeps Ludwig’s Ladies so freshly farcical is the genuine commitment of this eight member acting ensemble to the comedic mandates of this 800 year-old theatrical genre — including Lyndsi LaRose as the quirky, roller-skating Audrey; a well-timed Daniel Lench as Pastor Duncan; Don Oscar Smith as the lascivious physician, Doc Myers; and Corey Craig as the awkward Butch. And, as if to put a cherry on top of this dessert tray of a play, there is the ravishing Jamison Lingle, bringing sense not only to the role of Meg, but also intelligence to her character’s reading of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Leading Ladies is two hours of energetic entertainment that continues at the International City Theater – 300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach – through July 1. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There are Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For reservations, dial (562) 436 – 4610. For online ticketing and/or 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.