LA STAGE INSIDER

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Matt Shakman and James Roday

NEWS”¦ Founder and artistic director of Black Dahlia Theatre Matt Shakman has partnered with James Roday, co-artistic director of Red Dog Squadron, to purchase historic El Centro Theatre in Hollywood. Black Dahlia and Red Dog, which are dedicated to the development of new works, will be the resident companies. The two-stage complex was home to Circle Players in 1946, enlisting the services of Charlie Chaplin to helm the troupe’s efforts. During the 1970s and ’80s, it was home base for Ted Schmitt’s innovative CAST Theatre ventures. In an upcoming edition of LA STAGE Times, Shakman and Roday will discuss their plans for El Centro’s future”¦HeatWave, produced by Rogue Machine Theatre in association with LA STAGE Alliance (LASA)“”a project that brings together members of the professional LA theater community to confront and grapple with environmental issues””is holding its kickoff HeatWave Conference at TreePeople’s Conference Center in Coldwater Canyon Park, Saturday, June 9 (9:30 am to 4:30 pm). Participants include Terence McFarland and Douglas Clayton of LASA, spoken word artists Steve Connell and Douglas Kearney, video by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre and a staged reading, TBA”¦

Sam Shepard

PREMIERES”¦ The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company is offering the LA debut of Sam Shepard’s The Late Henry Moss, a fictional chronicle of Shepard’s relationship with his late father, helmed by multi”“Ovation Award winner David Fofi, opening June 23 at Theatre 68″¦Burbank-based Colony Theatre’s 2012″“13 season-opening LA premiere of Evan Smith’s bible-thumping The Savannah Disputation, bowing June 16, reunites helmer Cameron Watson and thesp Anne Gee Byrd from the 2011 Matrix Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, for which Byrd garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle lead performance award”¦

AHMANSON SEASON DEBUT“¦ Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre is launching its 46th year with a slogan, A Blast of Creative Energy. The season will range from the local debut of a tuner investigation of a civil rights blight on early 20th century US history to a revival of one of Cole Porter’s most tuneful irreverences. CTG Ahmanson’s 2012″“13 season begins with the West Coast debut of Seminar (Oct 10-Nov 18), scripted by Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck, helmed by Obie-winner Sam Gold, starring Oscar nominee Jeff Goldblum. The season continues with Cole Porter’s 1934 hit, Anything Goes (Nov 27-Jan 6, 2013), helmed and choreographed by 2011 Tony winner Kathleen Marshall, starring Rachel York; the American debut””and pre-Broadway tuneup””of Beatles bio tuner Backbeat (Jan 16-Feb 24, 2013), wrought by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys, based on the 1994 Universal Pictures film by Softley, Michael Thomas and Stephen Ward, helmed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux; the previously announced West Coast debut of End of the Rainbow (Mar 12-Apr 21, 2013), a play with music by Peter Quilter, helmed by Tony winner Terry Johnson, starring two-time Olivier Award winner and current Tony Award nominee Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland; a season subscriber “bonus option” return of 2010 Tony-nominated bio tuner Fela! (Apr 25-May 5, 2013), wrought by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones (book), Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (music and lyrics), Lewis (additional lyrics), Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean (additional music), conceived by Jones, Lewis and Stephen Hendel; and The Scottsboro Boys (May 21-June 30, 2013), chronicling the infamous 1930s Scottsboro trial, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, book by David Thompson, helmed by five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman“¦

Lorraine Hansberry

ACTORS CO-OP 2012″“13 SEASON”¦ Actors Co-op in Hollywood is ready to reveal its 21st season wares, titled Music, Mystery and Miracles, performed in the Crossley and David Schall theaters. The five-show bill o’ fare includes The World Goes ’Round (Sep 7-Oct 14), celebrating the songs of Kander (music) and Ebb (lyrics); Agatha Christie’s historic 1943 whodunit, And Then There Were None (Oct 12-Nov 18); To Be Young, Gifted and Black (Feb 8-Mar 17, 2013), based on the life and writings of Lorraine Hansberry (A Raisin in the Sun), adapted by Robert Nemiroff; William Gibson’s 1959 Tony-winning The Miracle Worker (Apr 12-May 19), chronicling the true-life story of blind and deaf Helen Keller and the teacher who taught her to communicate with the world; and Thornton Wilder’s 1955 Broadway hit, The Matchmaker (May 10-June 16), chronicling the adventures of indomitable Dolly Levi. All directors are TBA”¦

Yaelisa

AROUND TOWN”¦ On the 10th anniversary of its highly successful debut, Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies, a comedy about sexual politics and gamesmanship amongst a cavorting coterie of callow youth, scripted and helmed by Matt Chaffee, is hopping once again at the Arena Stage at Theatre of Arts in Hollywood, opening June 7″¦Diva Lillias White will be belting a slew of Broadway and jazz favorites one night only, June 11 (the night after the Tony Awards), at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, under the auspices of Chris Isaacson’s Upright Cabaret“¦ Broadway vet Davis Gaines has signed on to star as King Arthur in Long Beach”“based Musical Theatre West’s staging of Monty Python’s Spamalot, previews beginning June 29 at Carpenter PAC”¦Fountain Theatre’s ever-recurring Forever Flamenco! series is hosting San Francisco”“based Caminos Flamencos in a one-performance-only Flamenkeando, featuring founding artistic director Yaelisa alongside guest bailores Antonio Arrebola and Manuel “de la Cruz” Gutierrez, accompanied by guitarist Jason McGuire, percussionist Joey Heredia and singer José Cortes, June 10 at Barnsdall Park in Hollywood”¦Ilia Volok’s solo turn in Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman, helmed by Eugene Lazarev, is not only extending through June 22, it is moving to Hollywood-based Actors Circle Theatre in the process”¦Ovation-recommended Tennessee in the Summer, scripted by Joe Besecker, helmed by Sal Romeo, is extending its run at Burbank’s Sidewalk Studio Theatre through June 10″¦Finally, Hollywood Fringe Festival 2012 is initiating Student Fringe, an arts education program, June 8 and 15, offering free access for local schools and students to Fringe venues for a “full day of educational and youth-friendly programming provided by Fringe artists and students.”

Anna Lebom, Inessa Gunther, Nina Saiinen of The Demon Theater; Photo by Michael Moon

THE THING IS”¦ “I have acted every time I got a chance during my whole life. I grew up close to a little fisherman village on the Swedish island of Gotland. It was kind of an accident that I ended up in LA. I had got some insurance money from my old job after I broke my leg, and I was very much into films at the time. I came to LA for three months just to hang out and get the feel of Hollywood. While I was here I found Lee Strasberg Institute that I had wanted to go to since I was 10 years old; so I applied and got accepted. When I came back home I could not get a student loan, so my mom loaned me the money to go back and go to school. I had been here for about three months when I got a scholarship from Mrs. Anna Strasberg, and I stayed for four years. I was getting ready to move back to Sweden when I met my husband, so I’m still here, 14 years later. My husband, Michael, with him I can do anything, have started a theater company here which does only Ingmar Bergman’s writings on stage. We have constructed the theater in our home. We have gone from a tiny theater in a Hollywood home two years ago to going on a world tour this year. It is very exciting!” “”Anna Lerbom is co-founder with husband, Michael Moon, of Demon Theater, which has just completed previews of Ingmar Bergman’s A Spiritual Matter and August Strindberg’s The Stronger, both translated by Lerbom, which they are taking to Bergman Week Festival on Faro Island, Sweden, performing the week of June 20, before traveling on to perform in Germany”¦

Beverly Sanders

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY”¦ One of the homiest local restaurants during the late 1970s is Café 1928, located at 1928 N. Hillhurst Ave. in the Los Feliz district. A former private residence, 1928 exudes a “welcome home” ambiance with roomy stuffed chairs and flocked wallpaper, the windows framed by plush curtains. Three local thesps””Dolores Mann, Beverly Sanders and Sylvia Walden“”decide this atmosphere is ideal for realizing their dream of reviving American comedic stage fare from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, naming their venture Room For Theatre (RFT), debuting in 1980. Performing on the restaurant’s dark nights, Sundays through Tuesdays, for an audience capacity of 30, this distaff trio brings life to such long-dormant stageworks as S.N. Behrman’s Biography (1932), John Van Druten’s Old Acquaintance (1940), Behrman’s No Time for Comedy (1939), George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly’s Dulcy (1921) and Zoë Akins’ Greatness (1922), which extends three times, closing only when Café 1928 owner Marilyn Gordon (Mann’s sister) decides to get out of the restaurant business, selling the property in March 1982. Determined to honor Room For Theatre’s uncompleted 1981­”“82 subscription season, RFT finds temporary quarters at 65-seat Show Room Theatre, located at 1175 N. Vermont Ave.””sharing space with Vermont Theatre Guild””producing Akins’ Mrs. January and Mr. Ex (1944) and Ruth Gordon’s autobiographical Years Ago (1946). From 1983 to 1988, RFT enjoys permanent residence at 12745 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Continuing its mandate to concentrate on early 20th century Americana stage fare, the company finds great critical and public success with such works as Gail Baker’s WWII­”“based Pin Curls and Elmer Rice’s Broadway hit Dream Girl (1945), produced by RFT in March 1988. Unfortunately, due to changes in AEA’s Equity Waiver rules and rapidly rising rents in the San Fernando Valley, RFT finds it untenable to continue as a producing company. Ironically, Dream Girl is selected as 1988’s outstanding revival of a play by LA Weekly. At the LaWee Awards ceremony, held March 16, 1989, at Myron’s Ballroom in Downtown LA, Walden, when accepting the award, bemoans, “This makes me cry, because Room For Theatre doesn’t exist anymore.””¦

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

An Interview with CTG’s Sherwood Award Winner, Mat Diafos Sweeney

“I think LA theatre is at its best when it’s reaching across forms and reinventing its relationship to a live audience, and at its worst when it’s trying to fit an existing mold or production model that made sense in New York a century ago. LA is the future- our garden is wilder, vaster, and more diverse so it should be tended differently.”

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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.