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EST/LA Struts Its Stuff

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EST/LA is a full-service acting/directing and writing company that prides itself on its bustling production roster, and the 2018 One-Act Festival launched last weekend is only a part of it. In two evenings, ten writers present short plays that run the gamut from Sci-fi spoofs to absurdist, sweet and poignant sketches (full disclosure: I haven’t seen program B yet).


To sculpt a full evening takes a flair for dramatic structure: in program A, executive producers Liz Ross and Keith Szarabajka designed an evening that draws on the vagaries of the human condition. A begins with the Second Coming by Szarabajka, an out-and-out Star Trek spoof using the vantage point from outer space to comment on the state of humanity, writ large. The two-hander has hulking Will Harris as the pilot, taking orders from Lauren Campedelli as the bossy Commander.


Wonderfully Made by Troy Loftin examines Pentecostal attitudes held by fresh-faced Zachary Leonard as Joseph, encountered when Denah Angel Shenkman as Abby gives birth to a child that seems to have a gender deficiency.

Cinematic influences mark Karen Rizzo’s Evie, Duty Calls, when three generations of super-heroines are tested by moody teenager, Evie (August MacDonald). Angela Bullock plays the Granny, and Sharon Freedman plays Mom to the hilarity of a typical household hijacked by a teen’s growing pains.

The Syndrome by Elin Hampton proves to be the highlight of the evening. If you’ve ever been befuddled by an inside-jargon-speaking “expert,” you’ll love this play. The effervescent Carol Locatell plays Mrs. Sikly (get it?), whose only desire in life seems to be identifying her illness, while Rodney To as Dr. Watt delivers the gibberish-sounding prognosis. The writing of this piece makes for an especially smart and funny play.

But the heart-warming, if absurd finale, The Baby Shower by Stevie Stern, leaves audiences fully satisfied. Septuagenarians Eve Sigall as Mae, Sab Shimono as Louis, and Toni Sawyer as Olivia plan an extraordinary baby shower that reunites Mae with her daughter, Sunny (Denise Crosby). By the end, our hopes for humanity have been restored.

As always in the theatre, it takes a village to bring this evening to life. Producers Christopher Reiling and Heather Robinson head the team that includes lighting and scene designer, Bradley Bentz, and costume consultant Maggie Clapis, with sound by Aaron Lyons.

EST/LA One-Acts continue weekends through June 10th; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 P.M., Sundays at 2:00 P.M. at Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village 90039. Reservations and tickets: $25 -17 (Students must show student ID at the door) at





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.