This Week in L.A. Theatre

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  • To inaugurate its second 50 years of underwriting, the National Endowment for the Arts is awarding $27.7 million in support of 1,126 projects in 49 states, plus American Samoa, D.C. and Guam, in the first round of FY 2016 funding. LA-area stage companies profiting from this AEA largess: LA Opera ($70,000); Center Theatre Group ($55,000); Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory ($50,000); CalArts/REDCAT ($45,000); Cornerstone Theater Company, Inc. ($30,000); Irvine Barclay Theatre ($20,000); and contemporary opera ensemble The Industry ($12,000). Ojai Playwrights Conference, About Productions, 501 see three Arts, Inc., and TeAda Productions were all recipients of $10,000 grants. For a complete list of recipients, go to
  • The Laguna Playhouse announces the departure of Karen Wood, who has served for eight seasons as executive director of the 95-year-old institution. Wood stated that she is moving on “to other creative opportunities that are on my personal horizon.” Laguna’s Board of Directors is utilizing Arts Consultants Group to conduct a search, “with the desire to bring on the new leadership in the first half of 2016.”
  • Musical Theatre West has revealed its 2016 four-work Reiner Staged Reading Concert Series of “classic and forgotten Broadway gems,” beginning with the 1940 Rodgers and Hart hit, Pal Joey (Jan 24). Next up: 1978’s Cy Coleman/Betty Comden & Adolph Green showbiz tuner, On the Twentieth Century (May 16); followed by the Johnny Burke 1961 musical, Donnybrook!, based on the classic John Ford film, The Quiet Man (June 12); and the 1956 comic strip tuner, Li’l Abner (Aug 28). All performances at University Theatre, Cal State, Long Beach.


  • Theatre of NOTE, in association with Opiate of the Masses, is extending the premiere run of Bill Robens’ farcical take on the classic western, Rio Hondo, helmed by Jaime Robledo. Now playing through Jan 10.
  • Also extending: the debut outing of @thespeedofjake by Jennifer Maisel, directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, continuing through Dec 20 at Atwater Village Theater.


  • Celebration Theatre offers a holiday edition of its Celebrating New Works monthly new play reading series, presenting Tight Knit by Leland Frankel—”a dark comedy about one very modern family”—directed by Nathan Frizzell. Cast includes Chris Ferro, Jenni Fontana, and Emma Fassler. Plays Dec 15 (one night only) at West Hollywood City Chambers.
  • Albie Selznick’s long-running magic fest, Smoke and Mirrors, directed by David Schweizer and now in residence at Odyssey Theatre in West LA, is presenting Magic Monday performances, Dec 14 and 21.
  • Newly formed Victory Theatre BareBones Company presents the first edition of BackSTORYa bi-monthly spoken word series featuring stories and poems told around a theatrical theme—on Dec 13, hosted by Alonzo Bodden. Participants, riffing on the theme of It’s A Wonderful Life, include Rick Lupert, Tom Ormeny, Kate Roesgen, Adele Slaughter, and Carl Weintraub.


Writer/performer DIANA YANEZ discusses The Latina Christmas Special, co-created and performed by Yanez, Sandra Valls, and Maria Russell, and directed by Geoffrey Rivas, through December 20 at Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Diana Yanez, Maria Russell and Sandra Valls in "The Latina Christmas Special." Photo by Xavi Moreno.
Diana Yanez, Maria Russell and Sandra Valls in “The Latina Christmas Special.” Photo by Xavi Moreno.

“I’m a big fan of theater and a passionate storyteller. Storytelling is a really great opportunity to share our experiences with other people and I thought, I want to do more people’s stories. It came to mind to pick a subject that would have a lot of stories swirling around it. Christmas seemed like the right topic. That’s when I contacted my two buddies and really talented actresses, Sandra Volls and Maria Russell. I said let’s do this: three mini one-woman shows inside of a play, where three women get together and start telling stories of their childhood Christmases. I am Cuban-American from Miami. Maria is Mexican and Lithuanian. Sandra is of Catalan heritage. So, we are all Latinas, first generation American, but our family backgrounds and cultures are very diverse. Maria and I had been in a comedy group together. And Sandra and I knew each other from the standup comedy circuit. The three of us love family, love Christmas and love finding the humor in things. This is the third year for us doing this show. The first two years, we did it at a small space on Theatre Row in Hollywood with no budget. We had to do everything ourselves. This year, Geoffrey Rivas pulled us out of that small theater and brought us to LATC. Suddenly, we had a budget, rehearsal space and a whole crew. Geoffrey also pointed out that formerly, we had kind of thrown the show together, focusing on the monologues. Geoffrey had a vision for making it a much bigger, much more filled-in show. Now you actually get to know us and our relationships before we start talking about our own lives. This has become a much more complete experience for us and for the audience.”

Julio Martinez-hosted Arts in Review—celebrating the best in theater and cabaret in the Greater Los Angeles area—airs Fridays (2-2:30pm) on KPFK (90.7FM).

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.