PREMIERES... Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights is premiering A Cat Named Mercy, by artistic director Josefina López, funded by a 2013 grant from the California Endowment mandating her to write a new play about health care and the Affordable Care Act. The production, which focuses on the tribulations of an uninsured Latina vocational nurse in desperate need of an operation, is staged by Hector Rodriguez, opening Jan 31…Ensemble Studio/LA (EST/LA) is presenting the West Coast premiere of The Ugly One — “a comedic tale of a successful engineer who after decades of contentment is suddenly confronted with the news that he is, in fact, unspeakably ugly” — by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg, English translation by Maja Zade, directed by EST/LA artistic director Gates McFadden, opening Feb 15 at the Speakeasy at Atwater Village Theatre…Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Jeff Perry helms the LA premiere of Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain — “about two Chicago police officers whose inner need to serve and protect consumes them — and also rips them apart” — starring Thomas Vincent Kelly and Sal Viscuso, opening Feb 22 at Odyssey Theatre in West LA…Sierra Madre Playhouse is presenting the West Coast premiere of the period tuner, Battledrum — depicting the stories of three drummer boys serving in the Union Army during the Civil War — wrought by Doug Cooney (book and lyrics) and Lee Ahlin (music), staged by Christian Lebano, opening Mar 7…Acme Comedy Hollywood is hosting Washington D.C.-based City in a Swamp Productions’ premiere of the political satire, Obama Spy Drama, by Nicholas Zill, with additional dialogue by Derek Jeremiah Reid and Karen Zill, directed by Caitlin Hart, opening Feb 15…
LA WOMEN’S THEATRE FESTIVAL…Now in its 21st year, Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) — exec-produced by co-founders Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed — continues its mandate “to showcase the works of multicultural and multidisciplinary solo performers from around the globe,” March 27-30, at Electric Lodge in Venice. The schedule includes an opening night gala featuring performances by dancer Ingrid Graham (The Passage) and aerialist Tia Matza (Grief and Grace). The Mar 28 schedule includes performances by Tracy Silver (Motion Cures), Sofia Marie Gonzalez (Bully-Mia) and Katie Rubin (Why I Died, A Comedy! ). The Mar 29 matinee lineup includes Cynthia Ling Lee (Rapture), Ansuya Nathan (Long Live the King), Marlene Ondrea Nichols (Dress Kiss Me) and Lisa Marie Rollins (Ungrateful Daughter). Evening performances feature Dacyl Acevedo (Will Work For), Jozanne Marie (Beautiful) and Anita Noble (Polly Bemis). The Mar 30 matinee lineup includes Estela Garcia (Remedios Varo: La Alquinista), Jennifer S. Jones (Appearance of Life) and Ciera Payton (Michael’s Daughter). LATWF closing night schedule features Karen Bankhead (Etta Mae Humphries: And the Rest Is History), Mwanza Furaha (Excerpts from Cabaret Underground) and The Lindz (WASP).
AROUND TOWN…Originally scheduled for only one performance, Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera, by Elizabeth Searle (libretto) and Michael Teoli (music) in 2011, is now offering two concert dates, Feb 4 and 5, at Hollywood’s King King Club, choreographed and helmed by Ovation Award-winner Janet Roston. Proceeds will support Celebration Theatre…Currently in the midst of a national tour, the tribute show, Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening With Patricia Ward Kelly, is stopping over at Pasadena Playhouse for two performances, Mar 1 and 2…Later that month, Santa Monica Repertory Theater is presenting The Memorandum, Vaclav Havel’s 1965 comedic sojourn within the nightmare of corporate bureaucracy, translated by Vera Blackwell, helmed by Jen Bloom, opening Mar 21 at Santa Monica’s Miles Playhouse… The Production Company — housed at NoHo’s Secret Rose Theatre — is christening a new studio space dubbed The Production Company Workspace at 14731 Oxnard St. in Van Nuys. The space will be inaugurated with a new “Radio Style” playreading series, beginning with the debut of The Blur — focusing on how we are changed when we bring children into the world and what are the repercussions of skipping parenthood — scripted by Dean Farrell Briggeman, performing Jan 26 and 27 only…Doric Theater at the Complex in Hollywood is hosting the cross-gendered dark comedy, Daddy, scripted by Olivia Ross Peterson, helmed by Gina Young, four performances only, beginning tomorrow, Jan 24…And as a highlight of its special Valentine’s Day Weekend lineup, El Cid in Silver Lake is presenting Victory Variety Hour — “a risqué midnight burlesque” — featuring Penny Starr, Jr. and company, Feb 14 and 15…
INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY…On April 15, 1906, the Los Angeles Herald reports that Madame Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) has decided to venture south of San Francisco for the first time during her latest tour of the US. The problem is to find a suitable Los Angeles venue to host the acclaimed French tragedienne and her 60-member company for three nights of performances, prior to continuing on to Salt Lake City. None of the established downtown LA theater houses want to take on the burden of dealing with this temperamental diva and her unwieldy troupe. There is talk of putting up a large tent that would seat 7000, but the fear is that the acoustics would not be satisfactory. Riding to the rescue is entrepreneur/real estate developer Abbot Kinney who offers his sumptuous seaside Venice Auditorium, located an hour’s train ride from downtown LA. Anticipating some resistance from local theatergoers, Kinney throws in round-trip transportation for the price of a reserved seat. Performances are scheduled for May 17-19. The Bernhardt Company arrives by train on May 15, with Madame occupying a luxurious sleeping car that has been loaned to her by the Vanderbilts of New York for her American tour. Acknowledging the attention and respect that has been paid to her, Bernhardt invites Kinney to dine with her in her car each evening of her stay. Following her closing night performance of Victorien Sardou’s La Tosca, she promises her host she will always come back to Venice whenever she tours to the West Coast. The Bernhardt Company does return to LA in March 1913 but does not perform at Venice Auditorium, instead taking up residence at downtown’s Orpheum Theatre. However, Madame does conscript an entire floor of Venice’s King George Hotel. To guarantee she makes her call time, there is always a taxi waiting for her at the entrance to the lobby to whisk her to the theater. On the evening of March 12, Madame tarries too long enjoying a Venice Beach sunset, forcing her taxi driver to scurry at the breakneck speed of 18 mph. At the intersection of Washington and Crenshaw Boulevards, her taxi collides with another vehicle. Although suffering from an injury to her right knee, Bernhardt insists that she be taken to the theater, where she is once again performing in La Tosca. Sarah Bernhardt just might be the first celebrity to be injured in a reported automobile accident in LA…
Julio Martinez-produced and hosted Arts in Review (AIR) celebrates the best in LA-area theater and cabaret on KPFK Radio (90.7FM), airing Friday, January 24 (7 to 7:30 pm).