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Phylicia Rashad. Photo by Paul Zimmerman/AdMedia.

Center Theatre Group is launching the 46th season at Mark Taper Forum with Off-Broadway’s Barrow Street Theatre 2012 staging of Tribes, a comic drama about a deaf boy, by Brit scripter Nina Raine, helmed by David Cromer, opening Mar 10, 2013.  MTF continues with a revival of August Wilson’s 1988 Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, the second work of Wilson’s 20th century cycle, helmed by Phylicia Rashad, opening May 8.  Next up is Pulitzer Prize/Tony-winner Bruce Norris’s A Parallelogram ““ originally debuting at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2010 — helmed by 2008 Tony winner, Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County), opening July 21.  A revival of Joe Orton’s raging farce, What the Butler Saw, follows, helmed by John Tillinger, opening Oct 6.  The MTF season closes with a starring turn by Brian Dennehy in The Steward of Christendom, Irish playwright Sebastian Barry’s play about an Irish man in the 1930s, looking back on a career as Dublin chief of police from his perspective in a mental hospital. Steven Robman directs for a Dec. 8 opening.

caryn desai. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski.

ICT 2013 SEASON”¦ Long Beach-based International City Theatre (ICT) is also putting forth a five-play 2013 season, debuting its 28th with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, adapted for the stage by Mark Brown, opening Jan 25. Terrence McNally’s 1995 Tony-winning Master Class follows, opening Mar 22. Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Sarah Ruhl’s 2007 Helen Hayes Award-winning comedy “about morality, redemption and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world,” opens June 7. ICT is bringing its own production of John Logan’s Red — currently in a Mark Taper Forum production — to Long Beach, opening Aug 23. The season finale is Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti (Boeing, Boeing), translated by Robin Hawdon, “a sex farce in the true French tradition,” opening Oct 11.  Directors are TBA”¦

GRANTSMANSHIP… Theatre Communications Group (TCG) announced Fifth Round recipients of the The 2012 MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program: Think it, Do It. Five companies were awarded grants totaling $225,000, including Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles. Cornerstone plans to use its $50,000 award in part “to expand upon their existing community-engagement efforts by providing tools and resources to community participants for ongoing impact, thereby improving economic viability in the communities they serve.”…

Johnny Clark and Jade Dornfeld in "Blackbird"

VS. TAKES OVER BLACK DAHLIA”¦ In the May 31 LA STAGE INSIDER column,  Black Dahlia Theatre founder/AD Matt Shakman revealed the happy news that he and Red Dog Squadron Theatre co-founder James Roday had gone into partnership to purchase historic two-space El Centro Theatre in Hollywood as their co-habitating new home, re-dubbing it the Circle Theatre. The not-so-happy contractual reality required Shakman to either find new theatrical tenants for his original Black Dahlia space or pay to re-renovate the property back into a retail environment. Good news –  nomads for eight years, VS. Theatre Company, guided by artistic director Johnny Clark, is moving into its new permanent home, the former site of the Black Dahlia Theatre at 5453 West Pico Blvd., as well as into the empty storefront next door. The theater will be renamed VS Theatre with the adjacent storefront converted into a lobby space.  Following completion of their individual renovations, both El Centro and VS Theatres are aiming at going into production in early 2013″¦

Allan Miller

PREMIERES”¦ When Henry Murray’s new work, Three Views of the Same Object — a multi-dimensional sojourn through the reality of aging in America — garnered the national Woodward/Newman Drama Award while still in development for LA-based Rogue Machine’s 2012 season, it also earned a fully-funded production, mounted at the Bloomington Play Project in Indiana, debuting in April of this year. So, Rogue Machine will have to be satisfied with West Coast premiere status, helmed by noted film/stage director David Anspaugh, opening Sep 15. The cast features an “A” list of local thesps, including Anne Gee Byrd, K Callan, Catherine Carlen, Nancy Linehan Charles, Shelly Kurtz, Allan Miller and Hollace Starr“¦And another notable cast is in place for Ebony Repertory Theatre previously announced the LA premiere of Jeff Stetson’s Fraternity, helmed by Henry Miller, opening Oct. 5 at Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Washington Blvd. The ensemble includes Harvy Blanks, Ron Canada, Rocky Carroll, Robert Gossett, Nasir Najieb, 2009 Tony winner Roger Robinson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone) and William Allen Young“¦And Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks is premiering The Bellflower Sessions, “the explosive, gut-wrenching journey of an unemployed Everyman who plummets from the final days of his marriage into insanity,” scripted by Andy Bloch, helmed by Bryan Rasmussen, opening Sep 8″¦

AROUND TOWN“¦LA Chamber Orchestra (LACO) is adding a bit of spoken word to its concert offerings.  LACO’s trademark three-concert Westside Connections series this season pairs novelists and musicians for a “fascinating exploration of the relationship between music and story,” beginning Sep 3, at Broad Stage in Santa Monica.  The opening salvo features novelist/musician Mark Salzman, who joins LACO principal cellist Andrew Shulman onstage, narrating a performance piece that explores Salzman’s struggle with writer’s block and how his deep love of Bach’s cello suites broke the spell…In Hollywood, KPB Theatre Group is staging Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 two-hander chamber tuner, The Last Five Years, helmed by Kristen Boule, with music direction by Peter Darling, opening Sep 14 at Hudson Guild Theatre. This forward and back history of a troubled marriage features Kate Bowman and Juan Lozano“¦Although Collaborative Artists’ staging of Carson McCullers’ rarely performed The Square Root of Wonderful, helmed by Steve Jarard, was selling out at the Raven Playhouse in NoHo, it had to close last May.  “Back by popular demand,” the production returns to the Raven, Sep 14-Oct 14″¦And Burbank-based Group Rep is doing such good business with Jon Robin Baitz’s The Paris Letter, it is now extending the run though Sep 16″¦Over in Hollywood, dancer/raconteur Larry Blum is bringing his solo career memoir show, Blink & You Might Miss Me, to the Renberg Theatre in Hollywood for one night only, Sep 7, helmed by Stan Zimmerman, to benefit the LA Gay & Lesbian Center“¦And The Irish Curse, Martin Casella’s comedic perusal of five Irish American men who bemoan their limited extensions, is actually extending to Sep 16 at Odyssey Theatre in West LA”¦

Terri Maurey and Rick Kopps in "The Changeling." Photo by Jonathan Lewis.

THE THING IS”¦ “Put a Jacobean tragedy in modern dress and, aside from the language, it’s indistinguishable from today’s news headlines: Full of backstabbing, politics, mental illness, sex, bloodshed and comedy.  The play’s concerns about moral fidelity, sexual honesty, the war between men and women and the power money has to corrupt feels very contemporary. The basic premise of the tragedy is that someone good does something bad (usually involving sex or murder) and then the domino effect happens, with the play steamrolling towards an ending where all of the play’s major characters lie dead on the floor.  “¨The plays are rarely performed nowadays and I think that’s a real tragedy (pun intended), because all they take is a little editing and a little research to be fully accessible. The poetry of the language has a lot to offer;  the work provides juicy, complicated roles for women; they look and feel like movies and there’s so much action crammed into a little over two hours, any open-minded audience member is going to get their money’s worth. I expected that the language would be difficult for some of the actors to pull off, but I’ve been delighted by how well they “got” the poetry of the dialogue. We took time to go over every line and word that seemed archaic or muddy, focusing on making it sound like people speaking, instead of actors delivering their lines with modernizing inflections. I have a very good cast — from top to bottom –and that’s a rarity. They seem to be enjoying themselves and I’ve forgotten when I’ve had this much fun working.” -  Director Dave Barton discusses his staging of Thomas Middleton‘s 1622 Jacobean thriller, The Changeling, opening Sep 1 at Long Beach Playhouse”¦

Viola Spolin

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY”¦ Born in 1906, Viola Spolin sets out to be a settlement worker, studying at Neva Boyd’s Group Work School (1924-27) in Chicago.  Spolin is fascinated by Boyd’s insightful methods of structuring group leadership workshops in order to more successfully establish successful social groups. Spolin is also impressed with Boyd’s use of traditional game structures to affect positive social behavior in working class and immigrant children. During the Depression years, Spolin serves as drama supervisor for the Chicago branch of the WPA. Spolin realizes she needs to develop an easily grasped system of theater training that can cross cultural, social and ethnic barriers. She incorporates, games, story telling, folk dance and traditional scene study to unlock her students’ individual capacity for creative self-expression. She gives these techniques the umbrella title of Theatre Games.  During the WWII years, Spolin moves to LA. In 1946, Spolin opens the Young Actors Company in Hollywood, teaching her techniques to children, six years and older. Two of her preteen students are Alan Arkin and Paul Sand. Her company continues to 1955, with Spolin still developing her  Theatre Games System. Meanwhile, her son Paul Sills, a student at University of Chicago, utilizing his mother’s techniques, establishing the Compass Players, the  country’s first professional improvisational theater company.  Spolin returns to Chicago to help her son run improv workshops, which leads to the 1960 establishment of The Second City in Chicago. Spolin alumni Sand and Arkin are early members of the troupe.   In 1963, Spolin publishes Improvisation for Theater, which is still the classic source for improvisational actors, directors and teachers. In 1970 and 1971 Spolin serves as special consultant for Sills’ Story Theatre, which premieres at CTG’s Mark Taper Forum, eventually migrating to Broadway, garnering a Tony Award along the way. In 1976, she establishes the Spolin Theater Game Center in Hollywood, to train professional theater games coaches and serves as its artistic director. In 1985 her new book, Theater Games for Rehearsal: A Director’s Handbook, is published. Viola Spolin passes away on Nov 22, 1994, in Los Angeles”¦

The Julio Martinez produced and hosted ARTS IN REVIEW, broadcasting weekly on KPFK 90.7fm, Fridays at 2pm, is highlighting the Katselas Theatre Company Focus Group Play ensemble, airing Friday, Aug. 24″¦

@ This Stage Podcast, Ep. 4

In Episode 4 of the @ This Stage Podcast, Julia Stier interviews Lisa Sanaye Dring, Actress, Playwright, Director, and Associate Artistic Director of Circle X Theatre.

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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.