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Walking the Tightrope

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Though it was previously workshopped in Philadelphia, the current 70-minute staging at Los Angeles’ 24th Street Theatre constitutes the American debut of English dramatist Mike Kinney’s Walking the Tightrope in a full professional production (through March 30).

With four performers, one of whom is a melancholy clown (Tony Duran) and another as a musician (Michael Redfield) who soulfully strokes the piano keys – the cast is made complete by grieving Granddad Stan (an emotionally moving Mark Bramhall) and his wide-eyed granddaughter, Esme (the athletic thirty-something Paige Lindsey White).

Though the script comes with no stage directions from the playwright or any indication of time or place, Walking the Tightrope is given real-life dimensions through the crafty direction of Debbie Devine. Set in 1959 on the English seaside (a perfect directorial choice), Tightrope centers on Esme’s late summer visit to her grandparent’s home. The visits have become a family tradition and a ritual of lore and personal growth for Esme, only this time – much to Esme’s dismay – Grandma is nowhere to be found.

As Esme searches and wonders where her beloved Grandma could be, Grandpa Stan struggles to come to terms with the loss of his wife and how to break the sad news to young Esme.  In the meanwhile, Grandpa simply tells Esme that Grandma has joined the circus as a tightrope walker.

With video projections by Matthew G. Hill that serve the setting splendidly and an abstract scenic design by Keith Mitchell that is both utilitarian and believable as a stand-in for many locations in the house and around the village, we witness a skillful collaboration that creates theater that is artful and satisfying. What’s more, John Zalewski’s sound design and Dan Weingarten’s lighting motif are timed with indispensible precision. Touches such as Granddad tossing a seashell over his shoulder and hearing the plunk of it as it lands in the sand lends invaluable nuance. Moreover, Ela Jo Erwin’s costuming further allows us to accept that we are in another time and place, far away but alive and vital.

Walking the Tightrope is as much a lyric poem as it is a theatrical exercise. Not only is it about love, loss, and grief, Tightrope is also a coming of age story meant for people of all ages.

Walking the Tightrope continues through March 30. The theater is located at 1117 West 24th Street, Los Angeles. Performances are Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For reservations, call (213) 745-6516. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.24thstreet.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.