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Save Me a Spot!

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Save Me a Spot! is an entertaining new musical enjoying its world premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Chris (Clayton Farris) is a veteran slacker whose sole purpose in life seems to be following Bailee’s (Kristin Heitman) online video blog.

Bailee’s desire to see a Boy Band concert sends a newly energized Chris out in the world to wait in line to buy a ticket. He immediately runs into Hank (Kate Ponzio) who, despite her name, is female. Hank refuses to accept Chris’ obvious desire for isolation and gradually pulls him out of his shell with conversation and unsuccessful magic tricks.

In time, they are joined in line by a decidedly eccentric fellow named, Bird (Garrett Vander Leun) and, quite surprisingly, by Bailee herself. It soon becomes apparent that Bailee and Chris have a history. Discovering the details of that history is delayed when Bailee’s current boyfriend, a budding cacao entrepreneur named Miles (Brent Lydic), also joins the line.

Jeremiah Lowder’s book is broadly comic, focusing on the laughs that come when these quirky and opinionated characters are forced to spend time together. While the storyline stays fairly conventional, Lowder rejects the greatest clichés by ending the show optimistically, rather than fairy tale romantic.

Dan Waldkirch’s lyrics blend nicely with the book’s comic tone and are full of amusing topical allusions. Waldkirch also writes the music which is sprightly and tuneful in the easily accessible style of Robert Lopez.

Lowder also directs, keeping the action clear, and the laughs focused. He’s cast the play well, though the ladies have stronger voices than the men.

Farris is a master of adorkable. His goofy charm dispels the concerns we might otherwise have about such a feckless leading man and his more stalker-like attributes. He even manages to convince us that he enjoys eating Bugles.

Heitman does a nice job of differentiating her public and private personas. Bringing a welcome sweetness to the latter. Ponzio’s Hank is a jolt of crazy energy, though she manages to show quiet caring under the brash exterior. Lydic brings an aggressive cluelessness to Miles, and Vander Leun easily gets every laugh. Unfortunately, the role of Bird is, at this point, a comic device. Perhaps further revisions will integrate the character more skillfully.

Asylum @ Studio C    June 3 – 24, 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.