Lee Melville

Lee Melville

Linda Purl Spearheads International Theatre Festival

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California International Theatre Festival, various locales in Calabasas. Four days: Aug. 20-23. Tickets: $20-$35; VIP Festival Passport: $240 (includes premium seating at all performances as well as the closing gala event). Super-Saturday Passport: $90 (includes all Sat. shows). Call 800.341.2766 or visit citfestival.org

The California International Theatre Festival 2009 season will be a four-day event presented by the City of Calabasas with actress Linda Purl as Festival Director, M. Edgar Rosenblum as Executive Director and Joe Peracchio as Festival Producer. Purl says plans for the Festival started in February. “We had to move quickly. It’s been a fast pregnancy.”

She continues, “A group of like-minded theatre professionals, artists, business and civic leaders came together in a common discussion to find we had a shared passion to stimulate cross-cultural communication. Led by sponsorship from the City of Calabasas, we collectively decided to create an annual event that builds bridges of understanding between ourselves and all nations of an increasingly interconnected planet.”

The selection of events is impressive. Purl states, “One of the privileges of being Director of the Festival is being able to travel and find the art. Seeing plays around the world has confirmed the fact live theatre has its finger on the pulse of the collective consciousness.”

The Festival of international productions will take place in several Calabasas locations. The first offering will be Moby Dick-Ishmael’s Tale by Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett, adapted from the novel by Herman Melville. The story follows Captain Ahab on his epic journey of revenge in pursuit of the great white whale Moby Dick as told by Ishmael, played by Lovett. His wife directs. The couple is part of Gare St. Lazare Players, Ireland’s theatre company which has performed worldwide in over 17 countries. Lovett will appear on Thurs., Aug. 20 at 8 pm at the Carlson Family Theatre at Viewpoint School, 23620 Mulholland Hwy.

An Evening with…Sir Donald Sinden, features the knighted actor, a Royal Shakespeare Company veteran from the UK, who recounts his long career in an intimate evening. In addition to his West End and Broadway stage appearances, Sinden has a regular dramatic role on the BBC series Judge John Deed. His performance takes place on Fri., Aug. 21 at 7 pm, at the City of Calabasas outdoor Amphitheatre, 100 Civic Center Way.

The Ofer Amram Company of Tel Aviv, Israel, brings a chamber play of illusions, A Tale of a Lonely Man, to the Festival for two performances. Bordering on fairytale, it tells of a man with no knowledge of his past who invents a female figure in the form of a life-sized doll and fabricates invented memories of happiness. It performs Sat., Aug. 22 at 8 pm and Sun., Aug. 23 at 3 pm, also at the Carlson Family Theatre.

London cabaret artist Giselle Wolf sings songs from the heart about love hoped for, won and lost. Her repertoire includes American standards, show tunes, jazz and French favorites. She will perform at Founders Hall, 100 Civic Center Way on Sat., Aug. 22. Doors open at 9:30 pm.

A Free Outreach Program: Life Moments…on the Global Stage, written and performed by Kabuki master Lonny Joseph Gordon, distills a life of performing and traveling throughout the world into lessons both hilarious and profound. Anecdotes shared with and inspired by Martha Graham, Elvis Presley, Joan Rivers and a Christmas tree (among others) pull the listener from Gordon’s childhood on a Texas ranch on to Tokyo, Venice, Kathmandu, Sweden, Greece, India and unexpected side roads. Plays Sun., Aug. 23 at 11:30 am and is free to the public. Also at Founders Hall.

The closing event is A Taste of Calabasas Meets Cafe Burlesq-O! which will feature international cuisine created by Chef Tommaso Barletta and celebrity musical entertainment. Hosted by the Riviera Restaurant and Lounge, 23683 Calabasas Rd. on Sun., Aug. 23 at 5 pm.

Purl has an extensive, award-winning stage career as actress and producer. On television she is probably best known as Charlene on Matlock and as Fonzie’s fiancée Ashley on Happy Days and currently has a recurring role on NBC’s The Office. She says, “Our mission is to produce an annual theatre festival offering a distinguished array of international presentations committed to broadening cultural understanding by means of community outreach, student training and cultural exchange through the performing arts.  We hope the Festival will create ties of friendship across borders, inspire tolerance through understanding, bring affordable world-class theatre to the hood… and have a very good time.”

The next Festival is planned for July 15-25, 2010, in Calabasas.

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