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A Cacophony of Conversations on Institutional Fear

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What a wealth of international theatre can be experienced in Los Angeles right now. With the help of Pacific Standard LA/LA, DTLA bristles with activity (November 2- 19)  brought by Encuentro de las Americas with three weeks of theatre, cinema, music, scholarly presentations, and late night improvisations at The Los Angeles Theatre Center (phone 866-811-4111) or www.thelatc.org.

Prior to this bonanza of performances, last weekend LA audiences were treated to a pair of evocative, international productions calculated to shine a mirror on the U.S.‘s own travails. At UCLA’s Royce Hall, Theatre de la Ville in Paris recreated Albert Camus’ L’etat de Siege (State of Siege), the story of a fictional Spanish town experiencing an ideological takeover through intimidation and fear. Anyone having read the philosopher’s novel, The Plague, might recognize some of the characters.  The Plague (Serge Maggiani) sews discontent among the people, making them ripe for oppression.  In Camus’ nightmare, more than one of the townspeople sign on to the power grab, efficiently conducted by the Secretary (Valerie Dashwood). Two innocent lovers, Diego (Matthieu Dessertine) and Victoria (Hannah Levin Seiderman), bear the brunt of their tyranny. Only Nada (Philippe Demarle) wanders through unscathed, for he believes in nothing and cares for nothing, not even his life, and therefore cannot be intimidated.  He is a favorite character for Camus, as he exemplifies the sort of people that will enable oppression at no cost to themselves.

The diagrammatic tale unfolds against Théâtre de la Ville’s incomparable setting by Yves Collet, with lighting by Collet and Christophe Lemaire and image design by Mike Guermyet. At the top of the show, the utilitarian three-story, scaffold-and-ramp design incorporates a massive canvas drop cloth disguising slumbering performers until, like locusts, they emerge from their underground slumber. Costumes by Fanny Brouste echo a vaguely distant time, and Anne Leray’s disturbing masks heighten a sense of menace.

Director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota is not afraid to bring the action closer to the audience in massive Royce Hall. The play begins and ends along the aisles. Presented entirely in French, non-speakers may have missed the nuances of Camus’ argument, but its cautionary tale seems to loom increasingly near.

***

Mataluna by Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón, performing at REDCAT the same weekend, presents a different picture of political oppression.  In his examination of the unsung hero, Mateluna, Calderón dramatizes the unseen efforts of those opposed to Chile’s dictatorship, whose oppression was conducted with even more extreme measures.  Combining documentary footage with his theatre company’s increasingly critical performance pieces, the play confronts the group’s culpability in Mataluna’s capture and incarceration.

Since the presentation is spoken in Spanish, it is easy to miss that the majority of the purported performances the group describes with mounting urgency are fictional.  Still, Calderón’s portrait of a country under siege amid responding resistance, is chilling. Relying mostly on uncredited video footage, the straightforward lecture/performance is abetted by sets, costumes, and lighting by Loreto Martinez.

UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) presents State of Siege at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus in Westwood on October 27 and 28, 2017. For information on more of UCLA’s CAP programs phone (310) 825-2101 or www.cap.ucla.edu

REDCAT’s next theatrical presentation, Thumbprint, presented in concert with the LA Opera, opens June 15.  REDCAT can be found beneath Walt Disney Hall, corner of First Street and Grand, Los Angeles 90012.  Consult www.redcat.org for more information about their season of diverse offerings in theatre, cinema and dance.

 

 

 

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.