LA STAGE INSIDER

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Johnny O'Callaghan
Johnny O’Callaghan

Although it has been operating under the new moniker for almost a month, the two-theater (Beverly Hills Playhouse and the Skylight) company formerly known as  Katselas Theatre Company officially changed its name to Skylight Theatre Company as of Apr 6, administered by producing artistic director Gary Grossman. “Our focus is exclusively on the development of new works by Los Angeles-based writers through our in-house writers programs, including Playlab, UnAuthorized (ages 18-25), SoloMojo (one-person show workshop), and the INKubator series,” says Grossman, and most of this activity takes place at the Skylight in Los Feliz.  “We have also struck up a partnership with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) to conduct writer/composer workshops in the LA city schools.”  Beverly Hills Playhouse, which also will be utilized by Skylight, remains the home of the Beverly Hills Playhouse Acting School, which had been founded by the late Milton Katselas. It’s led by CEO Allen Barton, who is also the principal owner…Irish thesp Johnny O’Callaghan’s biographical one-hander Who’s Your Daddy — chronicling a nine-month documentary shoot in Africa during which he finds a son and himself — has been on the move since it premiered at Victory Theatre Center in Nov 2011. Helmed by Tom Ormeny, the production has sojourned at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival and is about to make its New York debut with Irish Repertory Company, opening Apr 22…

Yasmina Reza
Yasmina Reza

LA MIRADA 2013-14…Situated in the southeast corner of LA County, ambitious La Mirada Theatre has unveiled its 2013-14 season of stage fare, beginning with Neil Simon‘s 1986 Pulitzer-nominated hit  Broadway Bound (Sep 20-Oct 13).  The season continues with: David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2006 Pulitzer-winner Rabbit Hole — originally commissioned by South Coast Rep (Oct 25-Nov 17); Yasmina Reza‘s 2009 Tony-winning God of Carnage (Jan 24-Feb 16); Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1982 Tony winner Cats (Apr 18-May 1, 2014); and the 1986 multi award-winning Les Miserables (May 30-June 22, 2014).  As a season bonus, La Mirada is offering the 1994 tuner, Floyd Collins (May 27-Apr 13, 2014) in an intimate, audience-sit-on-the-stage configuration, which proved successful for La Mirada’s presentation of Spring Awakening in March. Floyd Collins had been initially announced in 2009 as the first installment of the Onstage program, but it was canceled then because of fiscal concerns…

Stephen Sachs
Stephen Sachs

PREMIERES…The latest stage offering from Fountain Theatre artistic director Stephen Sachs (Bakersfield Mist, Cyrano) is Heart Song — chronicling the adventures of three friends who embark on a journey of sisterhood, discovering their inner ‘duende’ through a flamenco class for middle-aged women. Helmed by Shirley Jo Finney and choreographed by flamenco dancer Maria “Cha Cha” Bermudez, the production debuts May 25… The Visceral Company is presenting the LA premiere of “a dark, abstract horror play,” Kill Me, scripted by Chicago playwright Scott T. Barsotti, helmed by artistic director Dan Spurgeon, opening Apr 26 at the Lex Theatre in Hollywood…For its second 2013  outing, Theatre of NOTE joins forces with Theatre Movement Bazaar for the premiere of Hot Cat — exploring the mendacity in family dynamics, unrequited sexual yearnings, mortality and sibling rivalries — helmed and choreographed by Tina Kronis, text by Richard Alger, opening May 3…Grove Theater Center (GTC) in Burbank is offering the West Coast premiere of Henry Ong’s Sweet Karma, based on the true story of a Khmer Rouge survivor who won an Oscar only to be gunned down in LA . It’s helmed by Grove artistic director Kevin Cochran, opening May 10…

AROUND TOWN…Standup comic/actress/dancer Stella Valente brings her solo show Shut Up and Dance — “an intimate look at one artist’s battle with anger, love and the power of dance” — to Working Stage Theater in West Hollywood, Thursdays only, helmed by Paul Messinger, beginning Apr 25…Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica is hosting a revival of Joe Orton’s 1970 farce What the Butler Saw, helmed by Ben Lupejkis, opening May 4…In Toluca Lake, Mike Bencivenga’s Billy & Ray, chronicling the jaundiced 1940s tinseltown collaborative machinations of film director Billy Wilder and noir novelist Raymond Chandler, helmed by Garry Marshall, is staying put at the Falcon Theatre through May 5…In Long Beach, Garage Theatre, in collaboration with Alive Theatre, is colliding Eugene Ionesco’s Bald Soprano (1948) into his 1952 work, The Chairs, resulting in The Bald Soprano>Chairs — “exploring the nuances of sexual attraction, social awkwardness and the odd notion that there simply MUST be a reason for everything. Rather, there may not be a reason for anything” — helmed by Garage artistic director Jamie Sweet, opening May 10…Within the same community, Long Beach Playhouse is launching season three of Long Beach Searches for The Greatest Storyteller, beginning Apr 28.  The eight-month elimination competition culminates with two storytellers left standing in Dec, vying for a $100 prize…Finally, in honor of Mother’s Day, Theatre West is offering a special May 12 MOMosa Matinee performance of Clare Booth Luce’s 1936 Broadway hit, The Women, helmed by Arden Teresa Lewis, encouraged by two-for-one tickets and fortified by free mimosas in the lobby…

Olin Tonatiuh and Cristal Gonzalez in "Tamales De Puerco." Photo by Ed Krieger.
Olin Tonatiuh and Cristal Gonzalez in “Tamales De Puerco.” Photo by Ed Krieger.

THE THING IS…“At first, the idea of being in a play that was performed in English, Spanish and American Sign Language scared the life out of me.  I knew nothing about signing. My character Norma is the mother of a deaf infant and she is in an abusive relationship with her husband.  When the child’s deafness causes the husband to be even more abusive, Norma flees with the child and is on her own. I was afraid of this role for a number of reasons. I didn’t believe I could effectively learn to sign and, on a personal level, I have also dealt with domestic violence. I just didn’t know how my body and my heart, my mind would connect to this character. When I was rehearsing this play, I was very grateful to have Mercedes (the playwright) as a teacher and to have her son Michael (who is deaf) in the cast helping me learn to sign. I had to get used to the differences in the languages when trying to communicate ideas and information. Even when translating from Spanish to English there is something left behind in the translation. And I found that to be true in ASL too. I sometimes felt I was signing wrong to one of the deaf actors in the play because I wasn’t giving the exact translation from English, but I learned it was the correct way to communicate the essence of the meaning to someone who could only sign. I must say, every night is a surprise to us on stage.  We don’t know how the audience is going to react. We also have multiple audiences, from the English, Spanish and deaf communities. It has been very interesting and very rewarding to explore all these different energies.”…Cristal Gonzalez stars in Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales), a trilingual play presented in English, Spanish and American Sign Language, scripted by Mercedes Floresislas, directed by Edward Padilla, premiering at Casa 0101 through Apr 28…

Lorne Green. Photo courtesy of Globe Photos Inc.
Lorne Green. Photo courtesy of Globe Photos Inc.

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY…American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA) is chartered by Congress in 1935. The word “self”supporting” allows Congress to refuse financial assistance. ANTA wallows in obscurity during the Great Depression, far overshadowed by the controversial Federal Theatre Project (FTP). Although FTP loses its congressional support in 1939, ANTA continues on through WWII doing as little as it can to draw attention to itself, mostly acting as an advisory organization for the theatrical arts. Over the years, ANTA moves into production at such facilities as the Guild Theatre in New York (1950), which is renamed the ANTA Theatre. In 1963, ANTA is looking forward to making the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center its production flagship, which does not quite reach fruition.  Choosing to rent out the facility to commercial productions, ANTA mostly maintains offices upstairs. Eventually, ANTA moves its offices to Washington, D.C. In 1980, ANTA establishes ANTA West in Los Angeles, operating out of the Hearst Discovery Theater, with former Equity official Leon Askin as its president and Lorne Greene serving as chairman of the board. Askin launches a four-play season in 1980-81 (Fever in the Brain, Out of the Garden, Time and Ginger, On the Ropes) but manages only one in 1982 (Primrose Hill) before ANTA West fades out of  existence. In 1984, ANTA founds the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver, Colorado, in conjunction with the Denver Center…

Julio Martinez-produced and hosted Arts in Review, celebrates the best in LA-area theater and cabaret, Fridays (2 to 2:30 pm) on KPFK Radio (90.7FM). On April 19, Arts in Review spotlights actors Jeff LeBeau and Michael Yavnieli, starring in the premiere of Allen Barton’s Years to the Day at Beverly Hills Playhouse.

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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.