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Around the World in 80 Days

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That renowned "Father of Science Fiction," Jules Verne was both prolific and prophetic. In 54 novels, collectively titled Voyages Extraordinaires, which includes Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Paris in the 20th Century —Verne foresaw such inventions as submarines, helicopters, fossil-fueled automobiles, calculators, and the Internet. 

 

In what arguably is Verne's most popular pulp adventure, Around the World in 80 Days, the plotline, circa 1872, has one Phileas Fogg wagering with his fellow Reform Club members that he (Fogg) can circumnavigate the earth in no more than 80 days. The bet is so ludicrous that Fogg easily finds bid takers among his fellow country clubmen of the day. 

 

What is inarguable is that Verne's intriguing premise inspired reporters, daredevils, and dilettantes of his day to become globe-rounding adventurers. Notably in 1889, Nellie Bly made her circular journey in only 72 days. Not to be outdone, in 1903, theater critic James Willis Sayre trotted the sphere in just 54 days.

Verne's 80 Days conceit motivated world travelers for well over a century. In fact, in 2004, Mark Brown was so inspired that he adapted the story to stage. That same year, The Sacramento Bee named Brown's script as the Best Theatrical Comedy.

Now, Long Beach’s International City Theatre presents Around the World in 80 Days, through February 17. Thanks to Allison Bibicoff’s astute direction and top-notch production values (kudos to Staci Walters’ mutable map-of-the-world scenic design, Kim DeShazo’s  retro-dandy costumes, Dave Mickey’s evocatively inventive sound motif, and Donna Ruzika’s lighthearted lighting design), this is a trip well-worth the purchase of a ticket. 

Couple the meticulous technical crew with a crackerjack cast of five well synchronized performers, playing three dozen and three  parts in various guises and disguises (including Jud V. Williford, purposeful and perfectly poised as Phileas Fogg; Melinda Porto, impressive and charming in various female as well as male roles; Mark Gagliardi in several chameleon-like incarnations; Brian Stanton, particularly amusing as a Scotland Yard detective; and, Michael Uribes, oh so agile, and quirkily cute, as frisky Frenchman Passepartout) — and this Around the World in 80 Days remains as enchanting as Verne's novel and true to his 19th century sensibilities, only now it's a live visual and auditory treat, tailor-made for live theater, and appropriate for all audiences.

Around the World in 80 Days continues at the International City Theatre through February 17. ICT is located at the Center Theater in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center – 300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (562) 436-4610. For more online ticketing and further details, visit www.ictlongbeach.org.

 

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.