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SITI and Ann Hamilton Fill Theater's Blank Page at UCLA's Royce Hall

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It was not until I finally saw a traditionally written play subsequent to walking through The Theater is a Blank Page at Royce Hall that I finally connected with the method and meaning behind this rather ponderous performance piece. Because I want my theater experience to stand up as an artistic encounter in its own right, I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

Rather than an optimum viewing experience such as one might expect from a performance, artist Ann Hamilton (responsible for the art part of the performance), with Ann Bogart & SITI (responsible for the performance part), ask their audiences to take the journey with the memories and sensory perceptions exhibited in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, itself an experimental novel written in 1927. In addition to Hamilton and Bogart, some 22 artists have collaborated to bring the performance into being.

To understand the piece, one must take a refresher course in Woolf’s métier, moving from the frame (here demonstrated by actors prepping the stage, shown through Royce Hall’s cavernous proscenium arch) to the passage of time as audience members move from upper reaches of the balcony down to the stage itself. As they depart, Rena Chelouche Fogel begins a reading of Woolf’s novel that waterfalls on the ear. Her reading continues through the journey out the doors, down the corridor, then backstage, finally to emerge onstage.

By the time all assemble, chairs have been placed in a square, and Woolf’s words continue monotonously beneath one’s consciousness. Strands of the novel printed on cloth strips make discontinuous contact with the reading as it passes like a ticker tape from one person to another. Intermittently, a choral reading directed by second reader, Bahni Turpin, chimes in, over, and around Fogel’s reading. For the last section, audiences connects Woolf’s depiction of a family trip to the lighthouse through the moving images shown with an overhead video.

Constant movement, no opportunity to ruminate, and the wash of words prevent us from the very emotions that Woolf’s introspective work often conveys. Instead of catching a thread that will pull us through a maze of impressions, we are cast adrift, as if our boat floats rudderless, to the beckoning lighthouse. The final image, though, is the most compelling and productive: the darkened audience blooms into the light, and we see a muslin-covered sea rising to the top of the 1,000 seat theater, At last we see ourselves as having attained our destination, with the undulating sea all around.

UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance presents The Theatre is a Blank Page at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus in Westwood until May 12, 2018. For information on UCLA’s CAP UCLA programs phone (310) 825-2101 or



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.