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Warner Grand in San Pedro

NEWS FROM CLOSBC”¦ Back on Aug 30, 2011, the City of Redondo Beach ousted James Blackman-led Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities (CLOSBC) from Redondo Beach PAC due to “non-payment of its lease obligations.”Â  Undaunted, Blackman launched a smaller-scale series at 800-seat El Segundo PAC (re-dubbed by Blackman as El Segundo Playhouse), offering a four-show 2011-12 season, beginning with a Dec 15 presentation of CSI Bethlehem, scripted and performed by Maripat Donovan (creator of the Late Nite Catechism franchise). The South Bay CLO website even promoted a three-show 2012 season at 500-seat Hermosa Beach Playhouse while alluding to 1,200-seat Centinela Valley Center as a potential venue for a revival of its original Redondo Beach PAC schedule of large-scale tuners. Well, the Blackman odyssey has now landed CLOSBC at San Pedro’s Warner Grand, announcing a 2012-13 season, beginning with the long-delayed production of the Stephen Sondheim tuner Company (Sep 5), followed by Thoroughly Modern Millie (Nov 21).  CLOSBC also has announced four 2013 production dates of  Mar 17, May 29, Sep 4 and Nov 21, all TBA.  A kick-off benefit concert launches CLOSBC’s proclaimed 20th anniversary season, May 20 at Warner Grand”¦

TJ Dawson, Gretchen Dawson and Kami Seymour of 3-D Theatricals

MEANWHILE, BACK IN REDONDO BEACH”¦ Family owned-and-operated 3-D Theatricals (siblings T.J. , Daniel and Gretchen Dawson), new to South Bay tuner turf, is expanding its previously announced three-show season at Fullerton’s Plummer Auditorium, moving west for an added week of performances at aforementioned Redondo Beach PAC. The schedule includes the 2004 Tony winner Avenue Q (Aug 3-5); the 2007 Off- Broadway Irving Berlin tune-fest I Love a Piano (Sep 28-30); and 2003 Tony winner Hairspray (Nov 2-4). “We are delighted to have professional musicals returning to our facility,” affirms John La Rock, cultural and performing arts manager for the City of Redondo Beach. “This is a show-by-show rental by 3-D. I’ve seen their productions in Fullerton.  They are wonderful.  We are hoping this leads to a relationship with them for years to come.””¦Â 

Jennifer Garner

NEWS”¦ Hollywood-based Blank Theatre is offering a smorgasbord of scenes, songs and speeches, culled from 20 years of output from the Blank’s Young Playwrights Festival, one night only at Avalon Hollywood, June 3. Hosted by Jennifer Garner, a plethora of notable thesps will appear at this benefit outing, including Ed Asner, Barbara Bain, Nicholas Brendon, Gordon Clapp, Dale Dickey, Daisy Eagan, Virginia Madsen, DB Sweeney, Kirsten Vangsness, Gedde Watanabe, Virginia Williams and Noah Wyle”¦Pasadena Playhouse is off and running in its national search for a new executive director, spearheaded by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) president Bruce D. Thibodeau and Playhouse search committee members Stephen Bennett and Brad King. As previously announced, Charles Dillingham, former managing director of LA’s Center Theatre Group, is serving as interim ED during the transition process”¦

Leilani Chan

PREMIERES”¦ Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills continues its 2012  season with the West Coast premiere of Norm Foster‘s sitcom The Long Weekend, helmed by Bruce Gray, opening May 31…At downtown’s LA Theatre Center (LATC), Latino Theater Company (LTC) is offering the LA premiere of Refugee Nation, a three-hander chronicle of the Laotian immigrant  experience in the US, post-Vietnam War, scripted by Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng, helmed by Armando Molina and Rena Heinrich.  The production opens June 2, starring Chan, Saopeng and Litdet Viravong…Also having its  LA premiere at LATC,  Language Rooms, co-presented by Golden Thread Productions and LTC, makes its local debut on June 3,  scripted by Yussef El Guindi, helmed by Evren Odcikin. This dark comedy peruses themes of American identity, immigration, bureaucracy, loyalty and terrorism, “a delicate balancing act between humor and life-and-death issues”…Matt Morillo’s latest title-challenged comedic romp, The Inventor, The Escort, The Photographer, Her Boyfriend and His Girlfriend, is debuting June 2 the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood, helmed by the scripter”¦

AROUND TOWN”¦ Continuing its 14th season, Ventura-based Rubicon Theatre is making its first venture into the works of August Wilson with 2004 Tony-nominated Gem of the Ocean, helmed by Rubicon artistic director James O’Neil, opening May 24. Tony winner Lillias White (1998’s The Life) heads a seven-member ensemble, launching the 1904 beginnings of one Pittsburgh-based African American family’s journey through the decades of the 20th century”¦In a double-header season-opening weekend, Topanga-based Theatricum Botanicum is offering the Bard’s “problematic” dark comedy, Measure for Measure, set within California’s counter-culture ’60s, where “some rise by sin and some by virtue fall.”Â  Helmed by artistic director Ellen Geer, Measure opens June 2, followed by the June 3 return of the Botanicum’s perennial, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, co-helmed by Willow Geer and Melora Marshall...Playwrights’ Arena and Latino Theater Company are extending the premiere run of Michael Premsrirat’s The Girl Most Likely, helmed by Playwrights’ founder/AD Jon Lawrence Rivera, through May 20 at downtown LA-based LA Theatre Center”¦Over in Pasadena, A Noise Within (ANW) is adding May 25 and May 26 dates to its run of Moliere’s The Bungler, translated by Richard Wilbur, helmed by ANW producing artistic director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott“¦And Rogue Artists Ensemble is encoring last year’s D is for Dog, opening in conjunction with Hollywood Fringe Festival on June 8 at Hudson Mainstage, then continuing its run until Aug 4.  Scripted and developed by Katie Polebaum, Sean T. Cawelti and Rogue Artists Ensemble, this outing promises, “new twists, special effects and an even more startling conclusion.””¦

Rhonda Kohl and Stephen Van Dorn in "The Learned Ladies"; Photo by John Dlugolecki

THE THING IS”¦ “I love it when the classics make us laugh at ourselves and Molière is the best at that. We moved the play to the 18th century, the tail end of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, so it doesn’t have the same styling as the original work. There are some characters who are specifically using stock commedia dell’arte characterizations and movement and some who aren’t. The ones who tend to be the characters dealing with the ridiculous are the more commedia-esque. The characters who are the voices of reason are more straightforward. William Bower, who plays one of the major roles as a weak-kneed incompetent, has had a lot of experience with commedia and he is wonderful in the role. The message of the show is so applicable to life today. Molière was commenting on people getting absorbed by big ideas and then messing up the little moments that are right in front of their faces. In this story, ladies get wrapped up in the new movement of knowledge and philosophy and they end up ruining the relationships in their own household. I think we are exactly the same today. We get absorbed with anything big and pretty that gets put in front of our face. It is quite common to jump into new things wholeheartedly, often without thought to what is happening along the way” Heather Chesley helms Molière’s 1672 farce, The Learned Ladies, translated by Richard Wilbur, concluding Hollywood-based Actors Co-op’s 20th anniversary season, opening May 11″¦

George Murdock

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY”¦ I attend the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble premiere run of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial in 1979 because I am a friend of Jerry Rubin (one of the original 1969 trial defendants) and I am curious to see how he is portrayed. I enjoy the production immensely. I also attend the reception after the play and happen to mention I know Rubin. Suddenly, my arm is being grabbed and an immense, craggy face is thrusting itself at me. This is my introduction to George Murdock, who is playing Judge Julius Hoffman in the play.  “You know Jerry Rubin,” he sputters.  “When is he coming to see the play?  He needs to stay and talk.  I need to talk to this man.”Â  Rubin does attend the play a few weeks later but does not stay to talk to anyone. My next experience with George Murdock is in Dec 1980 when I attend William Curtis’s Lester Sims Retires Tomorrow at the Melrose Theatre. Murdock’s portrayal in the title role is tangibly fragile, heartbreaking and tragic, leaving me with doubts this is the same man I encountered at the Odyssey. Born in Salina, Kansas in 1930, Murdock forges an enviable career as a character actor in Hollywood, flowing freely between film and the stage, without any concerns he will age out of the business. Establishing a TVQ in such series as Barney Miller and Battlestar Galactica, Murdock finds a stage home at the Melrose, offering a dynamic Big Daddy in Tennessee WilliamsCat on a Hot Tin Roof (1981).  Working other stages, he appears in Tom Stoppard’s Nuts for LA Stage Company (1981) and George Sibbald’s Brothers at South Coast Rep (1982). In 2001 he returns to his hometown, starring as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind at Salina Community Theatre.  In Oct 2007, I attend Odyssey Theatre’s revival of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, with Murdock reprising his role of Judge Hoffman. The play doesn’t resound with the immediacy it had in ’79, but Murdock’s Hoffman is just as scary.  George Murdock dies on Apr 30 at age 81. A Remembrance of George will be held Sunday, May 20 at 2 pm at the Odyssey Theatre in West LA”¦

— The Julio Martinez scripted and produced ARTS IN REVIEW, produced weekly on KPFK 90.7fm, is on hiatus until June 14″¦”¦

Julio Martinez

Julio Martinez

Julio pens the weekly LA STAGE Insider column for @ This Stage Magazine, as well as the monthly LA STAGE History column. He is a recurring contributor to Written By (the monthly publication of the Writer’s Guild of America) and is the TeleVision columnist for Latin Heat Entertainment. On air, he hosts the weekly Arts in Review program for KPFK 90.7 FM. An active journalist for over 30 years, Julio’s articles and reviews have appeared in Los Angeles Times Magazine, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Weekly, Stage Raw, Backstage West, Westways Magazine, and Drama-Logue Magazine, among others.