• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

In a Garden

E-mail Print

The Middle East has long been a centerpiece of global conflict and confusing socio-economic and cultural impulses as well as a bastion of immense petroleum-based wealth. The theatrical arts have, from time immemorial, been a way of bringing meaning and coherence to the pressing issues and emotions inherent in our lives. Now playwright Howard Korder has, in his latest script, used his formidable skills as a dramatist to lend insight into Middle Eastern diplomacy in a manner that allows us to see that not only is all politics local, but that the political is also personal.

Cryptically is directed by David Warren with top-notch design elements by Christopher Barreca (set); David Kay Mickelson (costumes); Lap Chi Chu (lighting); and Vincent Olivieri (original music and sound). It unfolds over a fifteen-year time period, spanning the late 1980s to 2004. Though the setting is the fictional country of Aqaat, the rudiments and sensibilities of the narrative are drawn from the region's recent history.

The minister of culture for Aqaat is Fawaz Othman (a mustachioed Mark Harelik in a flawless portrayal). Othman, a savant-like admirer of the American cinema, has summoned Andrew Hackett, an up-and-coming American architect, to create a garden house as a place for the minister to use for contemplation and carrying out diplomatic duties and negotiations. Korder makes the most of the dialogue here by parsing the linguistic line between what constitutes a private accommodation and what is a public facility. Moreover, Korder mines the comedy by having a low-grade, ongoing debate, wherein Hackett and Othman dispute the meaning of gazebo as opposed to summerhouse.

Although Korder's script is nuanced and, at times, even lighthearted, with meticulous performances by all the actors (including Jarion Monroe as the dictator of Aqaat, Nijad, and Phillip Vaden as U.S. Army Captain Prudhomme), ultimately In a Garden is an unflattering glimpse into power and manipulation, as well as life, torture, and death in the Middle East. While the story's resolution isn't exactly clear, the feelings of dread and uncertainty linger long after the proverbial curtain comes down. Acclaimed architect and current dean of the Yale School of Architecture, Robert A.M. Stern once mused that what's discussed "between a client and an architect is about as intimate as any conversation you can have, because when you're talking about building a house, you're talking about dreams." In Korder's play, the discussion of dreams turns nightmarish and becomes a haunting vision of current events.

In a Garden continues at South Coast Repertory--655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa--through March 28, 2010. Evening performances are Tuesday - Sunday at 7:45 p.m. Matinees are on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, dial (714) 707 - 5555. For further information, visit



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.