This Week in L.A. Theatre

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  • Center Theatre Group and Cornerstone Theater Company have both been accorded $115,000 grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s (DDCF) 2016 Building Demand for the Arts Implementation Fund. CTG will partner with playwright Naomi Iizuka to create workshops in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Cornerstone is partnering with actress/playwright Eisa Davis to create a Story Circle Platform “that translates the company’s analog, in-person engagement practices onto a digital format.” In total, DDCF allotted $2.43 million to fund 24 artists and art organizations that initiated “projects that aim to drive public demand for jazz, theatre and/or contemporary dance.”
  • The Eugene Pack/Dayle Reyfel oft-produced Celebrity Autobiography—celebrity memoirs acted out live on stage—will land at Acme Comedy Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 21 to benefit Children’s Action Network (CAN). Participating all-star cast includes Pamela Adlon, Scott Adsit, Jon Heder, Florence Henderson, Laraine Newman, Rhea Perlman, Steven Weber and Fred Willard.


  • Playwright/screenwriter Bekah Brunstetter is busy these days. Not only is she scripting for and co-producing the upcoming Starz TV series, American Gods (due late fall), she also is premiering Going to a Place where you Already Are, commissioned by South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, directed by SCR Artistic Director Marc Masterson. Opens Mar 11.
  • Much-traveled Route 66 Theatre Company is “getting its kicks” traveling from Chicago to LA, moving its acclaimed three-character drama, No Wake by William Donnelly, from Windy City’s Green House Theater to VS. Theatre Company on Pico Blvd. Stars Raymond Fox, Tricia Small and Route 66 Artistic Director Stef Tovar; directed by Kimberly Senior. Opens Feb 26.
  • Casting is now complete for Pasadena Playhouse’s West Coast premiere of Harvey Fierstein’s 2014 Tony-nominated Casa Valentina, set in a 1962 Catskills haven for cross-dressing heterosexual men. Directed by nine-time Emmy-winner David Lee (Frasier), the ensemble includes Lawrence Pressman, John Vickery, James Snyder and Valerie Mahaffey. Opens Mar 20.
  • Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica is staging the West Coast debut of A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, a one-person intergenerational tale of what we live for and what we leave behind, written by Gary McNair, helmed by Paul Linke and performed by Maury Sterling. Opens Mar 4.


  • Grove Theatre Center in Burbank is hosting a revival of Saul Levitt’s 1959 Civil War courtroom drama, The Andersonville Trial, which later became local PBS affiliate KCET TV’s 1971 Peabody Award-winning initial foray into drama. Coincidentally, this outing is being staged by Gary Lee Reed, a descendant of Confederate Commanding General Robert E. Lee. Opens Mar 5.
  • Dean Farell Bruggeman’s Only the Moon Howls—focusing on a marital journey of remembrance that shifts from bitter regret to warm nostalgia—made its debut at last year’s Hollywood Fringe Fest, and is now being produced by Theatre Unleashed. Directed by Eric Cire, the production opens Feb 18 at the Belfry Stage in North Hollywood.
  • The Victory Theatre’s BareBones Company in Burbank continues its bi-monthly spoken word series, BackSTORY, hosted by Carl Weintraub, on Feb 21. Inspired by the theme, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” storytellers and poets include Erika Abbott, Chuck Bramlet, Rashim Cannad, Gerald James, Joanna Lipari &, Beth McIlvaine (aka Beth Marquez).


Actress LISA ROBINS discusses her performance in Todd Salovey’s adaptation of Sherri Mandell’s memoir, The Blessing of a Broken Heart—written in the aftermath of the murder of Mandell’s teenage son in Israel—making its LA stage debut at Jewish Women’s Theater at The Braid in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Arts District. Salovey directs. Opens tonight, Feb 18.

Lisa Robins as Sherri Mandell in “The Blessing of a Broken Heart." Photo by AJT.
Lisa Robins as Sherri Mandell in “The Blessing of a Broken Heart.” Photo by AJT.

“The play adaptation has been in development for a number of years by Todd [Salovey], who is Co-Artistic Director of San Diego Rep and Professor of Drama at UCSD. We have done a number of readings of it over the years, including a workshop production at the Rep. Then we performed it at a camp for kids in Israel whose mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers have been killed by terror. The camp was founded by the author and her husband. They have a foundation and we toured, performing at various fundraising functions. And Todd kept developing the stage work as we progressed. He even gave me line changes during our last preview here in LA. It was interesting how I became involved with this work. I am Jewish, but during my early years as an actress, I performed a great variety of roles. But at a certain point, I began getting cast in Jewish roles. In 2004, I performed in this beautiful play, Center of the Star by Yehuda Hyman at the Greenway, produced by Cornerstone. Well, Yehuda then recommended me to Todd. It has been an amazing experience. The play has great depth and a wonderful sense of humor. What has surprised me is the courage of the audience to take this journey with us. We have performed it for children. We performed it at this one school in San Diego and I don’t think these kids had ever seen theater or a Jew before. They were attentive and got everything, even the jokes. They thoroughly understood how you can go through grief, come out the other side and turn it into something beautiful.”

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.