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Row After Row

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In the Los Angeles premiere of Row After Row, playwright Jessica Dickey explores the specialized world of Civil War Re-enactors. Not the battle itself, but the “backstage” passions of the people who spend substantial money, time, and effort to achieve authenticity down to the thread count in their uniforms.

Cal (Ian Merrigan) and Tom (John Sloan) are lifelong friends and fellow re-enactors. They enter their favorite watering hole after the annual re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge, to find “their” table occupied by first-timer, Leah (Jennifer Chambers). Sparks fly immediately between a truculent Cal and a defiant Leah. Tom assumes the obviously familiar role of peacemaker and manages an uneasy truce at the table. Cal, still wary of the newcomer, points out that Leah is “farbing,” (wearing non-period appropriate items). As the trio relax and fall into deeper discussion, battlefield accuracy gives way to personal disappointments and revelations.

The Echo Theater Company lavishes its usual scrupulous care in direction and performances on Dickey’s one-act. (It plays in rep with Adam Bock’s A Small Fire.) And under Tara Karsian’s attentive direction, the banter around the table is lively and sharply etched. But Dickey has larger ambitions and suddenly transports us to 1863 where Tom and Cal actually live their usual re-enactment roles of Union Deserter and Confederate Colonel. Leah becomes a woman who disguises herself as a Confederate soldier in order to sneak into the Confederate camp and bless the soldiers with a kiss. The period scenes, though performed with commitment, feel slightly awkward, and their modern analogies a bit forced. If the intention was to make the piece less programmatic, it accomplishes the opposite. That said, there is a lovely lyricism in some of the period writing.

Merrigan’s Cal is initially all bluster and bad manners, but he ably reveals Cal’s wounds and, eventually, a boyish enthusiasm which just might be enough to forge a romantic détente with Leah. As Leah, Chambers bristles with an antagonistic shield that barely cloaks her feelings of defeat. But it is clear that she finds a spark of hope in her encounter with the men. Sloan, in the least showy role, brings admirable depth and a low-key power to Tom, the quiet outsider.

Row After Row is an enjoyable dramedy with sterling performances and an easily digestible 75-minute running time.

Atwater Village Theatre  April 25 – May 9, 2015 (runs in rep with A Small Fire)  www.EchoTheaterCompany.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.