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Let's Talk About Sex

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It’s time to have a serious talk about Sex. Isn’t it punny to do word play around this title? I’m not sure that’s what Mae West had in mind when she wrote it. Though hard to believe, Mae West was a burlesque entertainer barely on anyone’s radar when she wrote, financed, and starred herself in this play on Broadway guaranteed to cause a “buzz.”  With an unerring nose for publicity, West’s play tackled hypocrisy in 1926 New York and society swarmed to it, despite efforts by the NYPD to shut it down.

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Red Speedo

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Lucas Hnath is one of the hottest playwrights around, and LA theatergoers have had the opportunity to see three major works on local stages in the past couple of seasons. The Christians was produced by the Mark Taper Forum, and A Dolls House Part 2 ran at South Coast Rep concurrently with the Broadway production. Now The Road Theatre Company offers a taut production of Red Speedo. As the title indicates, Red Speedo is set in the world of competitive swimming. Peter (Conrado Romero) is doing his lawyerly best to argue the Coach (Jason E. Kelley) out of reporting the stash of the performance-enhancing drugs that the Coach just discovered in the team’s communal refrigerator. Peter feels that dumping the drugs and hushing up the story is best for the reputation of the Coach’s star swimmer and Peter’s brother, Ray (Adam Peltier). After all, Ray has already told the Coach which other swimmer was responsible for the drugs, and there’s no point in tarnishing the whole team for one bad apple. Especially during the ongoing Olympic qualifying meets.

 

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For the Price of a Book: Provenance at Little Fish Theatre

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Little Fish always brings provacative programming to it’s 99-seat thatre in sleepy San Pedro. And Provenance has an intriguing premise: A woman hot on the trail of her 100th novel appears in an isolated, private library and refuses to leave until she finds it. She and the denizens of this remote spot gradually reveal their deepest secrets and learn to heal along the way.

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A Lovingly Rendered View of The Immigrant at Sierra Madre Playhouse

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Mark Harelik’s tender rendition of his family story —from immigration in 1909 to emergence as a prominant family in the small town of  Hamilton, Texas — has been given a lovingly honed production helmed by The Fountain Theatre’s Simon Levy.

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Witty Comedy Comes to Brand Park

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Only one more weekend for Dean Productions’ The Importance of Being Earnest by the most witty man ever to write comedy–Oscar Wilde – performed outdoors at Brand Park.  Since the play is a classic drawing-room satire, it may see odd to find it out of doors “in the garden,” so to speak. But the plucky organization, headed by Founder/Director Rebecca Lynne, brings her talented cast to Glendale for a short run once more.

 

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Soft Power

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Soft Power is a satirical one-act play. And it’s a musicalized dream. It’s also a futuristic panel discussion where the subtext is far more interesting than the commentary. And, finally, it is all those elements refracted through a funhouse mirror and reinvented as a full-scale musical romance and political cris de coeur.

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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).

 

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Knife to the Heart

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Knife to the Heart may not be the first circumcision comedy, though it’s certainly the first I’ve seen. But the world premiere play by Christian McLaughlin and Stan Zimmerman is unlikely to offend or disturb anyone. As their previous theatrical outings, the Hollywood satire Meet and Greet and the heartwarming two-hander Yes, Virginia, proved, McLaughlin and Zimmerman know how to mine laughs from any situation.

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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.

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Good People

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In 2011, David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, Good People, premiered on Broadway and was nominated for two Tony Awards — one for Best Play, one for Best  Leading Actress; it took the trophy in the latter category, earning Frances McDormand her first and, so far, only Tony (though she’s received two Oscars for her work in movies).

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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.