This Week in L.A. Theatre

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  • Sheldon Epps is leaving his position as Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse at the end of the 2016-17 season. Epps joined the “State Theatre of California” in 1997, previously serving as Associate Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego for four years. He will continue his affiliation with the Playhouse as Artistic Director Emeritus. Epps stated that he was not in a position to declare exactly what his future creative efforts will be, but he did hint at one possibility. “I think I have some interesting stories about my time in the American theater, both commercially and in not-for-profit theater, and also in the world of television,” he said. When asked if he had already begun to write this memoir, Epps stated, “A long time ago, I read a quote where someone said, ‘There is writing and then there is typing. The writing can take years, the typing can take a week.’ So, I’ve been writing it for a long time. I haven’t typed a lot of it yet.” Epps is currently in the process of working on the upcoming 2016-17 season, in conjunction with the Playhouse staff.
  • Founded in October 2008, Jewish Women’s Theater launched as a touring company, performing salon theater at various locations such as private homes and galleries. Co-founder Ronda Spinak recalled, “We finally found a home at The Braid building in Santa Monica, opening November 1, 2014, with the solo show, Not That Jewish, written and performed by Monica Piper.” That show will close Jan 31, following a 14-month run. On Feb 18, JWT @ The Braid will host the LA premiere of The Blessing of a Broken Heart (based on Sherri Mandell’s book of the same name)—“one woman’s journey to find purpose and hope in the aftermath of evil”—starring Lisa Robins, adapted and helmed by Todd Salovey. “We are hoping this play will be as great a success as Monica’s,” said Spinak, “and that we’ll be able to keep it for awhile. We are not sure what will happen after that, but we do know we will have to end our residency at The Braid in November. The owner of the building is renovating and plans to double the rent at the end of this year’s lease. So, right now, we are looking into all options. That’s what we have to do.”
  • Loft Theatre in Downtown LA has revealed its 2015-16 winter/spring schedule, beginning with the Jan. 30 debut of The Aeroplane or How Low: An Autobiography (sort of), scripted and directed by Mitch Rosander, dealing with issues of addiction, recovery, and self-identity. The season continues with the premiere tuner, Wanting Miss Julie—a contemporary adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie—by John Sparks (book), Patricia Zehentmayr (lyrics), and Jake Anthony (music), helmed by Loft Managing Director, Kevin Meoak, and choreographed by April Sheets. (Date TBA.) In May, the company will stage Shakespeare’s King Lear, starring Emmy-nominated Leon Russom, staged by Bree Pavey, with fight direction by 2015 Ovation-winner Mike Mahaffey (She Kills Monsters).
  • Theatre 40 is presenting a special Valentines Day appearance of renowned husband and wife thesps Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, performing Dearest Friend—culled from the letters of President John Adams and his First Lady, Abigail Adams, compiled and edited by Marion Zola—helmed by Salome Jens. Performances are Feb 14 & 15 at Reuben Cordova Theatre on the campus of Beverly Hills High School.


  • Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Hollywood is hosting the premiere of The Dodgers, by Diana Amsterdam, directed by Dave Solomon and starring Corbin Bleu, Eric Nelsen and Emma Hunton. Set in 1969, it focuses on a group of “sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll” drop-out friends facing a draft lottery that might send one of them to Vietnam. Opens Jan 30.


  • Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood is presenting its 21st annual, all-day-all-night Performance Marathon, Jan 16. Over 50 artists are scheduled to participate, including Kirsten Vangsness, Paul Dooley, Bill Brochtrup, John Fleck and Two Headed Dog. All proceeds to benefit Theatre of NOTE.
  • Actors Workout Studio in NoHo hosts Third, Wendy Wasserstein’s final play, a 2005 sojourn within the complicated machinations of a college professor concerned with issues of feminism, career and motherhood. Bob Cicchini directs. Opens Jan 23.
  • Group Rep in NoHo has extended its well-received West Coast premiere outing of the biographical Righteous Brothers tuner, That Lovin’ Feelin’, written by James A. Zimmerman and directed by Jules Aaron, now running though Feb 21 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre.


Following its sold-out run last Oct., Safe at Home: An Evening With Orson Bean re-opens Jan 22 at Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice. Directed by 2014 Ovation-winning director Guillermo Cienfuegos (Henry V), the evening is actor ORSON BEANs autobiographical chronicle of his private life, and his professional career in film, on stage, and in television—including more than 200 appearances as a guest and guest host of the Tonight Show.

Orson Bean and Alley Mills
Orson Bean and Alley Mills

“At the top of the show, I say, ‘I want to thank you for coming to my one-man show. I, myself, would not have.’ I have not been a fan of this format. But, I was completely won over by the response I got. The show has not changed since our last time out, it has just deepened. It is still a mixture of heartbreak and really funny stuff. At times, I feel people are laughing because it is more fun than crying. I would get laughs on things I never thought would get a laugh. It is based on my autobiographical book. I did a stage adaptation, but I wasn’t sure I really had anything in it that would lend itself to a show. My wife and producer Alley [Mills] put together a group of neighbors on the Venice Canals where we live, and I did it for them. The response was incredible. Then we got together with this actor, Alex Fernandez, who directs under the name of [Guillermo] Cienfuegos. He is an astonishing director who added so much to the show because he had read my book and knew what would work. Interestingly, I get a better response from the younger audiences than I do the older people, even though the older folk might be more familiar with the references. This really isn’t a performance about show business. I touch briefly on my career, but it is mainly about the mistakes I made in life and how I learned from them. And it is about gratitude. The younger people in the audience really respond to this. I am delighted to be doing this again. [PRT Artistic Director] Marilyn Fox has offered us an open-ended run, Friday through Sunday, and we’ll just see how this goes.”

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).

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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.