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Vs. Theatre Aims for Steady as You Go

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Artistic Director, Johnny Clark wants Cal in Camo, the present production, to kick off a new beginning for Vs. Theatre in 2019. “We are very proud to close out the calendar year with this play,” he said. “I hope this is the last production that we say [to our audience], ‘We don’t know what comes next.’” After a string of successful World, West Coast, and LA premieres, Clark wants to be able to declare a season with at least two productions.

He is encouraged by responses to Cal in Camo by William Francis Hoffman in a Red Dog Squadron co-production, now extended through November 16th.  And it is significant how the play emerged from a liaison between the two entities. Clark relates that he read the play about a year before Brad Raider, co-founder of RDS, came to him with the idea of doing it at Vs. When Raider, who plays Tim, approached him, Clark knew right away he wanted to do it. “It turns out that Brad had seen the play when it premiered in New York.” He said, “And I knew of it because I had read it.  It was kismet.”

Cal in Camo reunites Cal (Bree Turner) with her taciturn brother, Flynt (Tim Cummings), after the birth of her fitful baby and the drowning death of Flynt’s wife. Complicated by Cal’s inability to mother and her troubles with husband, Tim, the family moves inexorably toward an almost Biblical moment of truth. It is an arresting story, helmed by a sensitive director, Amy K. Harmon, and performed by the ensemble of well-seasoned actors. Meticulously sculpted both in lighting, sound, and production design, Vs. and Red Dog Squadron represent the very best that Los Angeles’s unheralded theaters bring to the table.

But getting there defied the odds. Due to schedules and availabilities, Harmon had a scant four weeks to pull everything together. “We relied on [Bogart’s] Viewpoints to give us a vocabulary to explore. Working swiftly required us to have immense focus.”

Since the setting requires a sense of great outdoors beyond the family living room, Harmon relates that she was “scared of the depth [in the space].”  But an added platform opened it up, and what might have been a liability became an opportunity. Of the performance, she added,  “We worried how it was going to work, but we all trusted each other, and now I love the way we did it.”

For the future, Clark unveils his strategy going forward. “I have two questions that I ask myself when considering a new play:

1) Can we do this as well or better than anyone else?

2) If this is the last play we ever do, is this the work we’d like to go out on?”

And, as an after thought, Clark adds, pragmatically,

“3) Can we get the rights? That last is the most unpredictable.”

Red Dog Squadron’s Brad Raider cannot be more pleased about the play, the production, and Vs.’ hospitality. After a five year hiatus, RDS co-founders Raider and James Roday (presently filming ABC’s A Million Little Things) finally have the time to produce again. It can only mean more star-quality productions of adventurous plays for Los Angeles.

 

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.