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Les Blancs

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Left unfinished at her death, Lorraine Hansberry's play Les Blancs was completed by her husband, Robert Nemiroff, and posthumously produced on Broadway in 1970. Despite a strong cast featuring James Earl Jones, the production was not a success, and the play quickly fell into obscurity. Rogue Machine’s riveting new production makes a powerful case that the play has been unjustly neglected.

The action is focused on a missionary compound and hospital in a fictional African nation. Charlie Morris (Jason McBeth) is an American reporter working on a story about the settlement and the reports of a growing armed resistance to the white overlords. In the absence of the mission’s founder, the Schweitzer-like Reverend Nielsen, Morris interviews the Reverend’s wife and a couple of the mission doctors.

Tshembe Matoseh (Desean Kevin Terry) has returned to the area from his comfortable life in England to attend his ailing father. He arrives too late, discovering that his father has died and that he was the instigator of the ongoing rebellion. Tshembe attempts to remain above the fray, but the spirit of Africa, symbolized by a Dancer (Shari Gardner), calls to him.

The violence moves closer and closer to the mission. While all continue their work, there is a growing undercurrent of fear. The tension is only exacerbated by the casual brutality of the local militia, led by Major George Rice (Bill Brochtrup). Hansberry makes it clear that, while the soldiers are violent and bluntly racist, the white members of the settlement treat the native population with unconscious racist sentiments ranging from paternalism to something darker.

Gregg T. Daniel directs this sprawling play with focus, clarity, and a clear love of the piece. He easily integrates Hansberry’s well-made play dialog scenes with her more experimental and expressionistic moments. His vision is greatly helped by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s resonant two-tiered set design and, especially, Jeff Gardner’s thrillingly evocative original music and sound design. Onstage percussionist Jelani Blunt accompanies the action with meticulous care.

Daniel has gathered an exemplary group of actors for the production. There is not a false note in the large cast, and they all clearly know that they are involved in something very special.

The play is not perfect. Some of the longer speeches tend to the didactic, and the characters occasionally appear too self-aware. Still, Hansberry reportedly considered this her most important play, and this production might make you believe it.

June is Hollywood Fringe month, and there will be many theatrical distractions. But anyone interested in powerful drama should make time for this belated Los Angeles premiere.

Met Theatre    May 27 – July 3, 2017



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.