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Nine Winning One-Acts

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In planning one-act festivals, companies generally choose either to ask playwrights to create works inspired by a particular theme or open their submissions to any play that fits their time parameters. In curating their second one-act festival, Nine Winning One-Acts, The Group Rep chose the latter, resulting in an eclectic array of pieces with far-reaching themes.

There is no double-casting in the show, and each play is helmed by a different director. All share minimal set pieces. Simplicity of setting was no doubt a factor in choosing winners from the over 150 entries the company received.

As in most ten-minute programs, the comedic pieces tend to play best to an audience. Creating a compelling drama in ten minutes is a challenge. The line-up of plays is strong, as are the performances. I only note one complete dud in the program, though I must admit that many in the audience seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. So, the following is a highly subjective view of some highlights from the production.

In Crosscut, Larry Robinette dares to write a serious piece set in a Barstow diner that poses questions he doesn’t choose to answer.It's a refreshing change from the neatly tied-up stories usually seen in short pieces. The play is, of course, helped enormously by Larry Margo’s invisible direction and the layered performances of Robert McCullum, Paul Sobrepena, and, especially, Deborah Dominguez.

Nathanial Vogel and Katelyn Ann Clark play strongly off each other in Lawson Caldwell’ Just That Sort of Day. Clark’s overbearing mother has decided that her son needs to embrace the fact he’s gay and sets him up on a date with a man. She is oblivious to his protestations that he’s straight. Clark’s character seems, at first, to be a California casual version of Linda Lavin’s Manhattan matrons in any number of Paul Rudnick and Nicky Silver plays. Later, when actual New York streets and sites spring up in conversation, it is clear that the play’s costuming and energy level have gone slightly awry.

Uma Incrocci’s oddly static time traveling Roadside Alice does provide a great opportunity for two watchable actresses, Lisa McGee-Mann ad Stephanie Colet, to spar and then come together.

Rich Orloff’s The Crass Menagerie is accurately titled. An uneasy marriage of the truly transgressive and the obvious, the script takes great chances with casting Robert Axelrod, a performer with a disability, as The Gentleman Caller. Axelrod delights in sending up the original play and giving the finger to audience expectations. The Wingnut Family (Sherry Michaels, Brad Khan, and Deanna Gandey) are game and bring plenty of vivacity to their roles, but they can’t overcome the stale Tennessee Williams jokes.

Saving the best for last, Lara Shamas’ White Dress may initially appear to be the most conventional play in the show, but it offers a number of delightful surprises. Jules Aaron directs this tale of a runaway bride with an eye for the beauty in small, subtle moments.  He is matched at every step by the simplicity and elegance of Nick Paonessa and Savannah Schoenecker’s endearing performances.

Nine Winning One-Acts offers an entertaining introduction to a group of writers who are mostly unfamiliar. I understand that with over 20 actors, 9 directors, and assorted other behind-the-scene jobs, adding bios to the program might seem overwhelming for a barebones production. But, as the playwrights are the focus, it would be nice to have a few lines in the program about each of them.

The Group Rep     April 14 – May 20, 2018



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.